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Posts tagged “Dungeon Master

Dear Dungeon Master – MarySue

“Slightly fatigued with Mary-Sues” of Liverpool writes:

Whenever I start up a game, or try to join an RP online (Star Trek or otherwise), almost every other player seems to want to break the boundaries of class or race to make their character ‘the exception to the rule’. I don’t mean multiclassing (which of course also happens) but more like “Yeah I’m a Vulcan, but this Vulcan has emotions”, or “I’m a high elf who’s actually a dark elf”, or “I’m a paladin, but I’m a pirate bard warmonger. Oh yeah, they deity I’m devoted to is the lawful good pantheon head”. Even stuff like “Oh we’re doing normal D&D? Cool, then I’d like to play a half-orc, half-Aasimar barbarian, and my character path is that I’m the son of a divine being and my powers will slowly develop as time goes on”.

The question is: do you experience this as well? Does it piss you off? Do you find that characters like that are actually interesting?

Also how do you deal with it? Do you kill one of their legs and raise it from the dead? (I know it happens, don’t try and tell me it doesn’t!)

And final question – do you find that characters that are rolled within the worldly norms (Sun elf bladesinger in forgotten realms/good old fashioned Barbarian etc) actually work better and give people more of a chance to be exceptional by playing the story rather than trying to force it at creation stage?

Hello Slightly

The exiled drow rejected by the society he knew and unable to be accepted by the society he chooses to fight for is not an unheard of cliche, it might well be that there was a time when one could hardly move through a game shop without stumbling across a Drizzt Do’Urden or variation thereof, and while the hobby is supposed to be about imagination, and while heroes are supposed to be exceptional examples of their kind… yeah, yeah, there is a definite trend towards “I’m an X but Y” where in the written lore the two variables are – not mutually exclusive, but outlandish and absurd.

Now there’s nothing wrong with playing a quirky character, and there’s nothing wrong with playing an outcast, happy people with cushy lives don’t go out adventuring… unless they do, you have to play the guy who got bored with life and took up the sword and fireballs at some point.

For example, you can be the pirate paladin, hells, I’ve literally just done it, an enforcer of the honour amongst thieves, share your loot, say nothing to the cops, and if you don’t play nice with your other underhanded brethren expect to be smote in your sleep (I can do that, my god said I could). But there is a balance to be struck between quirky and different and wacky and outlandish. Fantasy is supposed to be outlandish, so is sci-fi to an extent, but there is a difference between a Ferengi whose bad at business and decides to join Star Fleet, and a Ferengi who hates greed and money grubbing behaviour and lives like a peasant out of choice, that Ferengi would be stoned to death, like the guy who decided to roll that character. That character would be a pariah, that character should be a pariah, and that’s how the world would treat them, and that player would have to come to terms with that before they sit down or have a miserable time at the table.

Giving your character a place in the world, ties to nations, loyalty to factions, all offer potential for characters to be part of the world, opening avenues of role play and adventure, not to mention having allies may prove essential if a character is a loner and outcast. A character with family is – of course – asking for more trouble than the half-klingon-half-tiefling warlock of Salvatore, but it’s more dramatic and awesome trouble than it is painful and contrived awesome. It is more epic to have to leap to your death to save your estranged brother than it is to have everyone in every town you enter ask what the hell you are.

Hybrid characters are relatively easy to dismiss as a concept, you can play the pure biology card: “the pairing doesn’t work, no offspring can come of the union” or in the case of divinely or fiend-touched bloodlines, one lineage dominates, but if your player can present you with a well-reasoned, well balanced race that fits the world then by all means let it through… but let’s be honest here, it sounds like that’s not the kind of player we’re talking about here.

I for one have been lucky, I only rarely have to deal with such characters and they are usually only in single-game adventures, the kind that you want the obscene and ridiculous concepts so you can squeeze as much ridiculousness out of three hours as possible, however, might I suggest requesting from players that they either:

  • Follow guidelines to character creation, such as making membership to a faction mandatory, like Star Fleet, or a Ravnica guild as examples, or excluding certain races. It may seem harsh at first but given justification you’d be surprised how many players can get behind “the plan”.
  • Have new players pitch two or three character concepts. Clearly you’re dealing with some excessively creative people… maybe too creative… and giving them that brief will let them explore a few ideas, while allowing you to pick a selection that you think will gel together best.
  • Talk to the players once they’ve given their characters, and impress upon them the hard life they face as their chosen character, and ask if they’re willing to face that played out in game.

If, after all of the above, they still can’t play your way, clearly, yours is not the group for them.

 

And for the record, it was both legs, and it was one time! He was fine! He was walking around on them for months of game time with surprisingly little issue. He just spent a lot on replacing leg-wear.


If you have a question… ask it! I might even answer in this ridiculously long and rambling format. I’m not promising to turn this into a series, but when if it happens, it happens, and I’m perfectly fine with it. Other people have made a series of “Dear Dungeon Master” letters, but don’t let that stop you coming to me… this is fun!

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The Shropshire Dungeon Master Update I

A few weeks after declaring myself “for hire” (wink) as a Dungeon Master, what exactly have I been up to?

A New Campaign

Most of my campaigns fall into one of two categories: they’re either there today and gone tomorrow, or they will go on for years, outliving the tolerance of the players therein. Time to create something confined to a few games, something that promotes return custom and also promises a satisfactory conclusion.

The Wandering Pass closes every winter, leaving a handful of isolated villages and incautious travellers stranded high in the mountains. Food starts to dwindle, tensions run high, and somewhere out in the cold forests there waits a fate worse than death.

Winter of the Wendigo draws inspiration from the likes of Dead of Winter, Grim Dawn, Until Dawn, 30 Days of Night, and probably a lot of other sources that have sunk so deeply into my subconscious library of ideas to pluck from that it may offer some unforeseeable twists for new and experienced players alike. It will be for 1st level characters to emphasise the fragility of their position, and it will be comprised of five episodes that can be played in sequence and stopped satisfactorily when a group decides they’ve seen enough… or until they’ve seen it through to the Spring thaw. Their actions, successes and failures will echo throughout the game in ways most video games can only hope to imitate.

In addition, I’ll be expanding on one of my former one-shot campaigns – loosely entitled “Hangman” – into a three episode campaign of mistrust, deceit and subterfuge. I’m toying with a few new Mega-Dungeon concepts to bring to regular gaming sessions if I can secure repeat engagements with venues around the county, as well as throwing in some non-D&D games for those with a taste for something other than fantasy.

Marketing

So, in minor steps news the Facebook page for The Shropshire Dungeon Master has been started, albeit falteringly. Things that it will require – as a precursor to actual website construction – prices, contact details, a selection of what’s on offer games-wise, and a serious “looks” overhaul. As it stands it might as well just be a very thin version of my personal profile without the rambling “stream of anti-consciousness” that pours from my keyboard on occasion. Tim has rather kindly offered a logo design for me, and his ideas thusfar have been promising to say the least.

If you live in the Shropshire area or nearby enough you can expect to see my grizzled features appearing in a gaming store near you to tout my services in the next few weeks, as well as a healthy plastering of the business across social media, aided by Tim’s own support of my endeavours.

Business Oriented Thinking

Three separate conversations with myself across several days:

“Why would I need to look into new business funding? I already own the books I need, printing costs will start out negligible, I have a host of miniatures I do not use enough, set dressing and the like. After that it’s all advertising and I have cash to put into that.”

“Oh wow, I would look so much more professional if I had printed maps, and art done by someone who can draw well, more ornaments and the like. Oh wow the cost of graphic design is high for my minimum wage, they do not make it easy for the lowly peons.”

“… oh!”

So while I can start this little undertaking without financial backing, there’s no two ways about it, I can think of ways and means that a bit of start-up capital would accelerate progress rather dramatically, and take me from someone optimistically going cap in hand around gaming shops asking to be paid to run role-plays to someone capable of presenting a professional front to what is essentially the next step up for a hobby.

On a Related Note

Work continues on the upcoming eBooks for GeekOut. I have been toying with layouts for script and putting some simple designs to paper, while dashing Tim’s hopes that we can get each Top 10 to two A4 pages. As previously mentioned, we have a list finalised, and all new original Top 10 lists for the eBook readers planned to be assembled soon. And the Pokenomicon is close to two major milestones:

I have one last mutation to add and my starting line-up is complete. New trainers will be able to pick from Sporgoth, the slumped beast suffering a fungal infestation across its back, Katouche, a feline with a strangely artificial appearance, and Mudbait, an innocent looking amphibian with an odd taste for carrion.

And I’m about a third of the way to 150! I’m coming up with ideas I’m dismissing on the basis of either being too obscure, too far removed from the original works of Lovecraft, contemporaries and inspirations, or too half-formed and shambolic to put into something this big. Never the less I will gladly share with you Kozilick The Endless Tongue as a parting gift:


Announcing: Dungeon Master For Hire

So shortly after writing a short, and only slightly sarcastic article about Toronto’s Dungeon Master For Hire and discovering another in New York, and more still on Reddit, I find myself thinking that there may just be a career in this, and perhaps just enough money to be made that I can finally shed the burdens of traditional employment and embrace a true vocation, a calling if you will. Am I so willing to surrender my evenings and weekends to meet with random strangers and show them how to play my favourite hobby?

Well it’s that or take up drinking… (more…)


My Dungeon Masters

No man is an island, inspiration does not come from nowhere, and there are too many people to whom I owe thanks for developing my skills as a Dungeon Master. Today feels like the day to thank a lot of people, I’m coming to ten years a slave to the hobby (is that reference in poor taste? Eh, I don’t care) and I wanted to share with you guys the people who have shaped my experience, and how.

Nathan Rigby: Here’s the guy who started it all, him and a guy called Pete who appears to have vanished into the unknowable abyss beyond social media’s grasp. I was asked if I wanted to play, I said sure, was told I was the Dungeon Master, and replied “Sure, what’s that?” My early experiences as a DM were highly encouraging, and while I’ve been through some bleak patches in which I relied too heavily on tools that did me no favours, but I’m better now. Nathan only ran a few games for me, but he snapped me out of a few bad habits early on, encouraged and coached me through some basics by observing my style and correcting it.

Eddie Alcock: A lot of players you will talk to will have Their DM, that Dungeon Master who will always be the one who inspired and enthralled them, whose campaigns and stories are first brought to mind whenever conversation turns to the subject of RP. Eddie would be mine, a master of narrative, a brilliant creator and inventor, and a master of ripping things off in such a way that you’d never notice. One of my most entertaining characters thrived in a world of Eddie’s creation, and since playing in his games I have learned how to make my players feel more at home in the worlds I create for them. Cheers Ed.

Chris Smith: Owner and proprietor of my local game shop e-Collectica, my association with Chris goes further back than that. Here is the man I rely upon as my catalogue of gaming knowledge, and he has introduced me to so many board games, and more than a few roleplaying systems. In short, without Chris I’d be stuck fully on Dungeons & Dragons and would never have dabbled outside of my genre, I’m still a firm fantasy man, but at least I’ve stuck my nose outside of the box.

Chris Perkins: Since the days of the early podcasts with Mike Krahulik, Scott Kurtz and Jerry Holkins, before taking to the stage with celebrity guest after celebrity guest in front of hundreds of PAX attendees. Chris is a professional author for Wizards of the Coast working on D&D, in other words one of my dream jobs, and being in the field means that D&D is as much a part of his day to day life as it is to me, but he has a showmanship that I can only aspire to for now.


These are only some of the DMs that have built my expertise over a decade of role play, formative in my early years of the game, but I have not stopped learning from others. People like Raging Swan Press, Matthew Colville, Matt Mercer, and – dare I say – me, we all like to share our styles, stories, our advice to anyone and everyone who’ll listen.

Show some appreciation to your DMs, we work hard to give you the best gaming experience we possibly can.


Dungeon Master Lego

As a DM, you need to be able to set scenes by using mostly words. Sometimes you might draw a map that you can slowly reveal to the player and some of them might be quite complex, but sadly only 2D. It is possible to build actual 3D models of your maps, which has become a bit easier with the Dwarven Forge pieces that you can piece together however you like, similar to Lego. However, dear RPG players of the world, how awesome would it be if you could actually use Lego?

Well I must admit that I lost interest in Lego some time ago; I think they departed from their core mechanic in favour of cashing in on things like Star Wars, Batman and Minecraft. I thought it would take something drastic, (like having children,) to make me actually need to or even want to buy Lego again. But it appears while I have been ignoring them, Lego have taken on a fan’s idea to make Role Play flavoured lego. A user, going by the name of Ymarilego, submitted their proposal for a Dungeon Master lego set back in January 2017. By January 25th, they already had 100 people supporting it. Somehow this idea blew up on the internet and the idea reached it’s minimum of 10,000 supporters on 22nd Feb.

What this means is that Lego are actually now going to take this idea seriously, by pushing it through their internal review process, which I am sure is based around the sellability and cost of producing the actual pieces themselves. It is in the hands of the so called Lego Gods right now, so all we can do is hope that they make the decision to go ahead and build it.

From what we have seen of the proposal, it looks like that the set will include a few base player characters and some of the more regular monsters as mini-figs. Then the set is broken down into individual squares that you can mix and match or replace the contents of. There looks to be dungeon, as well as building-flavoured blocks, and a hint at some lava based blocks. The additional proposal is to add on some mine cart functionality which sounds like a great little add. For some this may bring somewhat of a cute factor to battling some serious enemies which may or may not appeal to DM’s. I rather like the idea of having many more component parts to build my maps from. Again some may argue that a decent DM does not need physical maps; and I would argue that at times it is absolutely necessary.

We asked our resident RPG expert Joel what he thought of the proposals.

Freedom of Expression

It’s about damn time Lego got together with RP, it’s just a shame it took a fan on the outside to start the ball rolling. One of the pillars of Lego’s popularity is the freedom to create whatever you like from the glorious universal pieces, and in the way they have embraced every genre and collected intellectual properties to give us the rather non-metaphorical building blocks to bring our imagination into the real world.

Roleplay does the same, the numbers become the building blocks, a means to drive imagination, create structure that can help bring our ideas to life and share them with friends. Physical props have always helped make manifest our brilliant ideas, our handcrafted worlds and bring our players deep into our narrative. Well now we can really handcraft those worlds!

Chris mentioned Dwarven Forge because they produce some of the best scenery for tabletop on the market, and their range keeps getting better and more versatile, but you’re still stuck with their own (stunningly beautiful) set pieces that can be moved around. They’re elegantly sculpted and beautifully painted but rather lash you to a theme, fixed paths and immovable scenery components. This project could bust those options wide open. Don’t like a wall? It’s gone. Path too wide? Narrow it. Not in a mine? Don’t be! The Lego Gods would be fools not to seize upon a market yearning for this level of freedom.

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Ok, so you can just buy Lego. There are fantasy kits out there, and they’ve recently brought back the basic bricks in a big way, but we don’t really want to make knights with chainsaws and go-carts (Nexo Knights, what exactly is going on there?) or caverns that change colour every five foot. We also need some dedicated stuff for creating our characters that can be pretty expensive to bring together in a custom mini-figure. I’ve yet to see a well made Lego beholder.

Chris is right when he says a good DM doesn’t need a physical representation for what they’re trying to create, but that doesn’t stop us from wanting it. The market demands, and Lego have given it a new channel through which to demand in very specific terms. If Dungeon Masters are the market in this particular instance then let us speak clearly, we have wanted to play with Lego while role playing for years – hells, I’ve tried to make a set myself with the Digital Designer – because physical representations can make the world feel more real and immerse you further into it, even if it’s population can only move at right angles and have weird yellow claw hands.

Final Thoughts

Fellow geeks, I cannot stress enough how much I want to see this come to fruition. Tell your friends, tell your neighbours, tell your parents. Get everyone you know to go through a very short sign up process and go and vote on this set. Don’t think about it, just make it happen.


DMing 101 – Being Bad

Ahh, it’s good to be back!

It has been around a year now since my first article here, indeed my first article anywhere, so it seems only right to revisit my favourite topic, and a particular subject I’ve been looking forward to discussing.

Welcome back you lovely lovely people!

DMing101


 

Murder hobos is an affectionate term for player characters. These are people for whom reckless endangerment is a way of life. They sleep outdoors, kill en masse with the most tenuous motivation, and no matter how much money they accrue throughout their career they will never buy so much as a house, or even open a bank account. (more…)


DMing 101 – Consequences

In DMing 101 I’ll be giving generalized advice on how to run a tabletop role-playing game. The articles will not presume any knowledge, except being able to read. And maybe knowing what dice are. And paper. And a computer. Maybe some other stuff. I’ll also presume that you can remember that DM means Dungeon Master. Some people call it a Game Master or GM, but I don’t. Suck it up.

There are a few quick start guides on how to DM out there, but DMing 101 will offer a fairly easy set of tips that a novice can follow to make his/her games something truly memorable.

(more…)


DMing 101 – Level Design

In DMing 101 I’ll be giving generalized advice on how to run a tabletop role-playing game. The articles will not presume any knowledge, except being able to read. And maybe knowing what dice are. And paper. And a computer. Maybe some other stuff. I’ll also presume that you can remember that DM means Dungeon Master. Some people call it a Game Master or GM, but I don’t. Suck it up.

There are a few quick start guides on how to DM out there, but DMing 101 will offer a fairly easy set of tips that a novice can follow to make his/her games something truly memorable.

(more…)


DMing 101 – Types of DM

In DMing 101 I’ll be giving generalized advice on how to run a tabletop role-playing game. The articles will not presume any knowledge, except being able to read. And maybe knowing what dice are. And paper. And a computer. Maybe some other stuff. I’ll also presume that you can remember that DM means Dungeon Master. Some people call it a Game Master or GM, but I don’t. Suck it up.

There are a few quick start guides on how to DM out there, but DMing 101 will offer a fairly easy set of tips that a novice can follow to make his/her games something truly memorable.

(more…)


DMing 101

In DMing 101 I’ll be giving generalized advice on how to run a tabletop roleplaying game. The articles will not presume any knowledge, except being able to read. And maybe knowing what dice are. And paper. And a computer. Maybe some other stuff. I’ll also presume that you can remember that DM means Dungeon Master. Some people call it a Game Master or GM, but I don’t. Suck it up. There are a few quick start guides on how to DM out there, but DMing 101 will offer a fairly easy set of tips that a novice can follow to make his/her games something truly memorable. (more…)