Thursday, November 14, 2013

This is probably my favorite Traveller thing on the internet: Little Black Book cover generator
It's absolutely useless for gaming, but when I was running Traveller I would try to come up with titles for the sessions and would make LBB gifs for them. I can't find any of the ones I made, except for one. When I wrapped up my last Birthright campaign, and tied it into Traveller via the Flux, I made this just after the last session:
I don't remember if I ever shared it with the group.
Rediscovering this cute little toy makes me want to run Traveller again, or Stars Without Number, or just something in space. With a Little Black Book cover.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Death Frost Doom

In my regular group we've been playing Dungeon World, and I've been grinning and bearing it because the GM had the idea of trying a Lamentations of the Flame Princess module using the Dungeon World system. It was an interesting crossbreed.

Spoilers ahead, so if you haven't played Death Frost Doom stop reading here. If you have played Death Frost Doom, then read on.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


I've talked about initiative before, albeit in a slanted way, and I noticed while self-examining my GM style of DCC RPG that I no longer treat initiative as stringently and compulsory as I had in the past.

A situation arose in my last game session where the PCs were confronted with a second monster at the tail end of a round where they just finished dealing with another monster, and instead of rolling initiative and bringing in the second adversary I let the players dictate what they would do before attacks were launched. It resulted in a temporary end to combat and a need to re-roll initiative later when it started again. A later scene in the same game had a player announcing his character's attack in order to initiate combat, and rather than roll for surprise or initiative, as the rules of D&D and it's many variants usually calls for, I had him roll his attack to see what would happen first. He managed to score a critical hit and ended the combat before it had a chance to begin.

I still think surprise and reaction rules have their place, but I just believe a game is more fun for everybody involved if the GM maintains that the players drive the action of the story. In purely mechanical terms, when a player declares an attack than they should be allowed to complete it before moving on to reaction, surprise or initiative rolls.

Monday, November 4, 2013


The first GameHoleCon concluded yesterday and it definitely wiped me out. I didn't look exhausted but when I got home my head hit the pillow and I escaped into an abyss of sleep for the rest of the day.

I've never GMed at a convention before and I was very nervous beforehand. I only signed up to run three events, two games of Apocalypse World (which were identical) and one game of Dungeon Crawl Classics. I think if I do this again next year each game I run will be different because the first game only sold 1 ticket and so I cancelled it. The second game only sold two tickets, but I had a friend at the con who said he had some time to kill and he purchased a ticket and became a third player. The final game, DCC RPG, only sold 2 tickets, but given the nature of that game's zero-level character funnel I made it work with only 2 players.

Here are the events I ran, along with their descriptions:
Apocalypse World: what's the name of this town?
An introduction to the Apocalypse World rules and suitable for anybody new to the game. Players will quickly make characters, help define NPCs for the setting, and then play through a number of scenes where outside forces try to tear down or destroy the community they live in. Apocalypse World is a game about dwindling resources, filled with territorial warlords, grotesque mutants, decaying environments, and brutish savages. What you do is who you are in Apocalypse World. So what are you going to do?

I've run this one-shot a few times now, and I always think of ways I could improve it. Every time I run this game something unique happens that simply cannot be prepared or accounted for. We had a Chopper, a Brainer, and a Savvyhead, and they managed to track down and eliminate most of the threats I have loaded into the love letters. This was the first time players formed a link between two of my threats which doesn't actually exist, and it was the only time the players found out about the big bad secret of their hometown without having any immediate moral quandaries about it. The game we played was grim and filled with blood. The apocalypse? Oh, you're soaking in it!
I found myself asking leading questions a lot and had to keep stopping myself in mid sentence in order to rephrase what I was asking. I also noticed that I've stopped describing the minutia of rules, one player asked about stats and I glossed over them by explaining the dice mechanic and handing out the basic moves playbook. I'm not sure if this a good habit to start getting into, but the newbies seemed to pick up the game really quick and fell into their characters with little or no hesitation. There was a spectacular gun battle which I had a lot of fun "announcing future badness" with. It was a real blast getting to see a Chopper in action from the other side of the table, but I feel like I fell short since I never went into a lot of detail about his gang.
Overall, I think I'm getting considerably better at bringing conflict into the center stage even if I have lost my subtlety in the process.

Dungeon Crawl Classics: Let's Kill a Giant
An introduction to Dungeon Crawl Classics. Players will get to choose from a stable of pre-generated characters and play in a brief adventure where their characters will explore a dungeon and attempt to slay the giant that is terrorizing their village, or die trying. Dungeon Crawl Classics is a streamlined version of 3rd edition D&D that pays homage to the literature listed in 1st edition AD&D's Appendix N. It emphasizes combat that is brutal, magic that is mysterious, and a world that is unforgivably deadly.

This game I was the most nervous about. I used information about a wizard lair from one low-level module and I took a simple cave map and it's denizens from another low-level module and combined them together to form a pretty straight forward 0-level adventure that involved killing a sleeping giant. There are lots of notes and charts and tables involved in a DCC game, so having an index readily available would have speeded things up, but I had a secret passage that I was not very well-prepared to use any of and of course the players found it before anything else. I don't think they noticed though.
After running Dungeon Crawl Classics side by side with Apocalypse World, I'm even more convinced that story-games and OSR go together like peanut butter and chocolate. The cardinal rule of GMing that I think I've learned from games like Apocalypse World is that a success should not have immediate downsides and a failure should create complications. However, I didn't want to deviate from the rules of DCC RPG but whenever I did I let the players know that I was doing something different from how the rulebook was written, like allowing them to use pages in a spellbook like casting from a scroll.
They were really inventive too! They got attacked by a summoned chimera and thought luring it into a cage they had opened might be the best way to simply contain it so they wouldn't have to fight it. One person lost their life getting the creature trapped, but otherwise it worked. We had two additional players who sat and joined the table for about an hour just to get a feel for the game. In the end, they succeeded in slaying the giant and the survivors came away rich.

The whole con was a lot of fun, and GMing was a real learning experience. I'll probably do it again next year.