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Having reached the minor landmark of 50 followers, I mused upon the appearance of this blog and soon found myself unsatisfied with the default 'black' theme. Honestly, this realization comes partly by way of my peers, and the slight tinge of inadequacy they inflict upon me when I take note of their Html-bending craft. Growing somewhat disillusioned with the complex layouts that had vexed me, I set out in an admittedly half-hearted search for a suitable proxy. After a mercifully brief delve into the world of blog customization, I emerged, somewhat satisfied with a technically-straightforward, minimalist template consisting of darker colors that are easy on my eyes.

As always, criticism is welcomed; as are suggestions. Have an alternate template that you feel would suit this space more adequately? Let me know. It's a matter of your ocular comfort, as well, after all.

Aural Aids

16 comments
This follow-up to my previous post seems like a logical progression on the subject of player immersion, as evidenced not only by the proliferation of music-related blogs, but of course, those seeking to add an extra 'something' to their sessions. In today's case, this 'something' comes by way of music, sound effects, or other audio-related elements one may add to the experience. With the availability and popularity of equipment designed to provide these effects, this option may be the most cost-effective method of immersion one can implement, as the impact of utilizing tools one may already have (mp3 player, home theater system, etc.) can be quite profound. As always, these tips are provided for Player and Host alike, as the enhancement of game quality should be an endeavor undertaken by all able participants.


-Content Suitability

When selecting a particular sound effect, it's important to maintain a level of compatibility with the overall pace of the session. For example, if a an action-packed, edge-of-your-seat, combat-heavy scenario is in mind, it would be prudent to select a similarly dynamic, fast-paced piece. Few things can calm a bloodthirsty spirit faster than a tranquil piece of classical music, or a meditative selection of the 'Chillout' genre. *cough*ImeanyouLhosreiff*cough*

Conversely, I advise you to avoid speed metal and anything of that sort during an upscale period of diplomacy (unless you feel like adding a touch of comedy to a particularly heated debate, of course).

Addendum: If done well (and sparingly), one can accomplish a rather Tarantino-esque flair by pairing a particularly gorey scene with aforementioned tranquil piece of classical music.


-Theme Suitability

While considering pace appropriateness, please don't neglect to adequately pair the regular settings of your session with the theme of your song list. Case in point: one should generally avoid broadcasting a piece by 'Daft Punk' over the siege of a medieval stronghold (again, there are certain exceptions to this rule; such is the case of a dimension-/time-hopping campaign).


-Lyrics

Lyrics in a song choice are often discouraged for their ability to draw attention from away from the action in front of them, or the narration a Host provides. The exception to this guideline would be a selection with a message thoroughly relevant to the situation at hand, though one is still forced to contend with speaking over the music.


-Complexity

As stated in the previous guideline, 'competing' with, or speaking over the music is discouraged, which is an issue that may arise when implementing an overly complex and engaging piece. An example of such is difficult to determine, but if the music you select tempts others to pause play and listen instead of acting with it, reconsideration may be necessary. An aural aid musn't take away from the experience, but it shouldn't add too much, either.


-Sound Effects

These are a bit more difficult to pull off, as they usually require the acquisition of a reliable soundboard, combined with the innate sense of timing necessary to successfully use them without breaking pace. If successful, however, this method can add an unforgettable depth to one's session, especially if running a horror/suspense scenario.


That's all for now, hope these help.

Maze #3

18 comments
Brief, belated post to let everyone know I'm still alive. I enjoyed the discussion of riddles so much, I thought I'd provide two puzzles that build upon the mechanics of the maze previously provided.

Enjoy


Riddles

19 comments
Yep, it's another one of those posts designed to infuriate your players. This time around, I'll make a few observations concerning riddles (obviously); namely, how to use them, when to do so, and how they can be solved.

-How

Riddles, like mazes, can pose a great mental challenge to your players, and have a knack for eating up time. Though they're somewhat easier to circumvent/avoid than mazes (depending on the scenario, of course), this also makes them far easier to place and run than a standard labyrinth. Many of the rules for utilizing mazes are compatible with these puzzles, so I'm not going to linger on this topic.

-When
Much like 'How', the 'When' of riddles is similar to mazes, save for certain considerations that should be taken. Riddles, obviously lacking the mechanical depth of mazes, are difficult to center an entire session or campaign around. Having a singular, inherently non-threatening challenge can be difficult in general to work with, which is what makes the context of this challenge so important. To combat this factor of passivity, the knee-jerk reaction of many Hosts is the placement of a severe punishment for those who fail to complete this challenge (namely death or dismemberment). I, however, feel this to be rather draconian, and a good way to frustrate an uninspired group with endless hours of desperate pondering. Personally, I prefer to have the riddle deny access to an area entirely voluntary and inconsequential to the plot. This optional area can be as rewarding as a shiny, new weapon, or an alternative, safer route to a dangerous objective.

-The Solution

Most people (that I'm familiar with, in any case), tend to strictly accept a valid answer for their riddle of choice, and will yield to no other solution. This method, unfortunately, has the drawback of immediately ceasing game play, especially if the group one is working with are particularly unimaginative. To remedy this issue, it's becoming increasingly common practice to allow a roll or check to "find" the solution, allowing the fictional character to solve it in-game without player intervention. The drawback of this method is its simplicity, which allows even the most complex of questions to be answered with a single lucky roll (in the case of the unimaginative group, wouldn't be a drawback at all, if it preserved the session's momentum). With this issue in mind, the principle of keeping strictly optional areas guarded via riddle is further validated, as failure to access said zone shouldn't have a relevant effect on the overall plot/session structure.


With the discussion out of the way and without further ado, I present a handful of sample riddles to get you started (as always, feel free to modify them any way you see fit):


1. Two doors before you, each guarded by a spirit

One always tells the truth, the other always tells a lie

There's no way to discern between the two, or to tell which one will lie

You also know that one door leads to certain death; the other to your goal

They permit you to ask a single question, directed at one spirit, before you choose a door

What do you ask?


2. A murder was committed and 5 suspects are being questioned

Suspect #1 says Suspect #2 did it
Suspect #2 says Suspect #1 did it
Suspect #3 proclaims their innocence
Suspect #4 says Suspect #5 did it
Suspect #5 says Suspect #4 is lying

If only one of these men told the truth, who spoke truthfully and who is the killer?


3. Two bodies have I, though both joined as one

The more I stand still, I quicker I run

What am I? (My personal favorite)


4. Alfred is the father of 5 children

Half of his children are daughters

How is this possible?

Visual Aids: An Addendum

17 comments
Silly me; for some inscrutable reason, I had been under the belief that I had supplied the required materials to implement the strategies presented in my most recent post. To rectify this lingering oversight, I shall provide here, in this briefest of entries:

grognard.booru.org - A strange name given to an ever-expanding library of images one may browse in search of a proper character portrait

ugo.com/games/superhero-generator-heromachine-2-5 - A semi-serious, gimmicky (but a lot of fun) character generator that offers a surprising amount of customization and genre compatibility

wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/mwa/archiveall - WOTC's own archive of D&D-related maps/dungeon tile sets, though they can obviously be repurposed for other needs

darkleagues.com/fantasymapping/index.html - This site hosts a collection of freelance cartographers, who offer a selection of free samples along with their commission rates

cartographersguild.com - These guys take their map-making seriously; the perfect place for catering to a specific need, or for starting some custom map work of your own

Visual Aids

6 comments
For many groups, the difference between the quality of various games often comes down to the subtle considerations they make when preparing for a session. While such creative thinking can range from adding ambiance-enhancing music to performing accents for each NPC encountered, I'd like to focus this entry on the effects which aid one's visualization of the game. Be it an artificially aged map provided by the quest-giver or a tasteful character portrait representative of a player character, several elements can be added to transform a period of dice-rolling into a vibrant, immersive experience:


-Props
A particularly effective, yet seldom utilized tool of the artistic host. A measure of skill with arts and crafts, paired with a bit of imagination (or an extremely obscure reference), can turn that 'rusted bronze key' or '+1 dagger' into a tangible item. The most prominent advantage of this creation is an improvement of the overall acting/role-playing capacity of your players. Certain participants may have difficulty getting into character through imagination alone, but give them a representation of key items, and suddenly you have a troupe of thespians eager to re-enact your scenarios.

-Portraits
A small picture, figurine, or other minor visual representation of an NPC can help flesh out these notoriously two-dimensional elements. Though, it's rarely necessary to go overboard and create an avatar for every servant, peasant, or shopkeeper introduced, a little effort can certainly go a long way when interacting with a particularly memorable or recurring character.

-Maps
The most basic of visual aid, the playing surface/grid/map gives players a convenient and straightforward referral to their character's spatial orientation in respect to their current environment. Its beauty lies in its simplicity and functionality, though rendering a constantly-changing landscape can quickly become a chore, which spurs certain hosts to eschew this tool completely. Such individuals often have a knack for descriptive narration and/or follow a rules-light system, thus enabling such a free-form method of representation. A word of caution must be applied, however; while there's nothing inherently wrong with this approach, it does make player cheating somewhat easier to accomplish.


Hopefully, these suggestions have inspired any hosts out there to take an extra creative step towards productivity and provide an extra layer of immersion.

Edit: Though the majority of this post was directed towards those hosting a game, there's no reason why a player can't take the first step and create their own props, portraits, or maps. In fact, such individuals have an extra degree of immersion at their disposal, by way of donning an outfit or costume representative of their chosen character. Sure, it's something of a social awkwardness and general bother, but it doesn't need to be overly elaborate. An element as simple as a unique accessory (hat, smoking pipe, etc.) or a mock weapon can enhance your own acting and by extension, the overall level of immersion. In the very least, your host is sure to appreciate and make note of the effort, as surely as you appreciate theirs.

Creation of a Space Marine: Part 2

8 comments
I must apologize for going off on a semi-philosophical tangent during my last post. Though there's nothing inherently improper with discussing such thought-provoking material, it simply isn't the objective of this blog, as evidenced by its title. So, in the interest of offsetting the recent solemn discussion of humanity while remaining on-topic, I'd like to ask my viewers to participate in a light-hearted, casual discussion of hypothetical proportions.

Given the opportunity for guaranteed successful integration, which single organ, of those presented on the list, would you chose to keep as your own, and why?

Please, feel free to warrant said decision with any particularly creative uses of your newly-acquired organ.


Edit: This post seemed a bit meager on its own, so I've linked a very 'meh' (but free) dice generator:
http://www.penpaperpixel.org/tools/d20dicebag.htm

Enjoy

Creation of a Space Marine

6 comments
http://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Creation_of_a_Space_Marine

I had been wading through the mess that is the 'Warhammer 40,000' canon, when I stumbled upon a most interesting article. Said page appeared to detail, to a very educated degree, the various modifications inflicted upon a human being during the creation of a Space Marine.

Being an adamant player of this particular army (former-Ultramarine-turned-Grey Knight, in case you were wondering), I approached the article with a healthy amount of skepticism. Surely, with a franchise so plentiful in contradictory fluff and shifting details, there would an oversight within this layout of information.

Much to my gradual amazement, the material in front of me appeared to not only consist of solid details, but it also lacked needless ornamentation, making it accessible to those newly-inducted into the ways of the grim millennium. The list, though brief, would serve well to inform those thirsting for a more complete understanding of this popular army/race.

However, this collection of impressive biological modifications also happened to present a rather puzzling question in itself.

With a single entity possessing this extent of biological engineering, how does one calculate its measure of humanity? Should such a being even be allowed to keep the classification of 'human', given its nigh-supernatural abilities?

...Perhaps I'll look into Orks, instead. They seem to be philosophically straightforward.

Initiative Tracker

9 comments
This post, though meager in content, offers a tool that's recently become of great use during my recent sessions. The titular web-based gadget is extremely base, but effective; allowing for a simple, easy-to-use (and best of all, free) record of player stamina and/or turn order.

Customization is rather limited, but it vastly reduces the amount of paperwork and note shuffling during play time (in my case, anyhow), especially when one possesses the freedom to record miscellaneous notes in the rightmost section.

As a free, simplistic, and practical RPG utility, it's invaluable for any host looking to streamline their game:
http://initiativetracker.com/

Mazes

5 comments
In observance of my recent affinity for mazes, I thought it appropriate to provide a rough set of guidelines for the successful implementation of these puzzles.

1. Presentation
-Puzzles, particularly environmental ones, can be difficult to present to your players without spoiling the entire challenge. Whether you illustrate it through narration or with a series of pre-rendered drawings, a little preparation can go a long way.

2. Time
-The amount of time required to resolve the challenge can be difficult to ascertain, especially if provided for an unfamiliar group. A collection of pre-game test runs can assist in a reasonable estimation of time (when in doubt, round up).

3. Suitability
-Certain settings, such as a modern or realistic campaign, generally don't lend themselves to large, imposing labyrinths the PC's must run through in person. In these cases, some creative thinking is required to assure compatibility. Possibilities for conversion can range from simulating the process of hacking an electronic device (maze mini-game), to recreating a particularly complex ventilation system (infiltration challenge).

4. PC Commitment
-While it's obviously ill-advised to implement a puzzle section for a combat-oriented group, it's equally important to gauge your players' interest during the event itself. If the event drags out for too long or turns out to be excessively difficult, a measure of subtle alteration to the design may be necessary to preserve PC satisfaction. Remember, the players, above all, come first.

Maze #2

6 comments
Admittedly, I'm not much of a writer. Though I can hold my own with a decently constructed and well thought-out post, I feel much more comfortable (and enabled in my profound laziness), posting content that others are free to incorporate within their own scenarios.

So, without further ado, here's another maze. May it endlessly madden your players.

Instant-Death Scenarios

1 comments
In the realm of traditional RPG's the death of a PC (Player Character) is, in the very least, a notable event. For those particularly attached to their character, it can be a highly emotional event, particular for foolish enough to build a fictional manifestation of their corporeal self. With such considerations present, it brings the issue of guaranteeing player death in a given scenario. Whether it be a presentation of a neigh-invincible enemy force or the construction of a particularly sinister trap, the existence of certain annihilation is one that must be moderated with extreme tact and care. For the sake of simplifying this undoubtedly complex question of appropriateness, I will present the main arguments concerning this matter in a straightforward pro/con comparison:

The Benefits of Utilizing Instant-Death Scenarios
-Disposal of Annoying Players
A cheap, underhanded tactic, but sometimes a poisonous player needs to be separated from the group ASAP. A distinct lack in subtlety (especially in the case of a targeted death) makes it ideal for penetrating even the thickest of minds.

-Dispel Illusions of Grandeur (a.k.a. 'putting the fear back into them')
At higher levels of play, some hosts may find it quite difficult to instill the fear of death into their player's. Some, especially veterans of the game, may think they've seen everything; this is where an abrupt, unexpected death comes into play. Most adventuring groups should have the means to revive a fallen member at this point, so this typically traumatic event may come across as merely a current inconvenience to them.

-NIGHTMARE/GYGAX/PLAYER KILLER MODE
Though clearly a niche, certain groups relish the grim ultra-realism that is 'death at any possible second'. Such adventuring parties are almost exclusively well-seasoned players that can accept a PC death with reasonable maturity and may even play multiple characters at once (if allowed). Their play style is extremely cautious and well thought-out; reward this persistent foresight with non-compulsory deaths that are only granted during the rare lapse in judgment.


The Drawbacks of Utilizing Instant-Death Scenarios
-NIGHTMARE/GYGAX/PLAYER KILLER HOST
Simply enough, if you habitually deploy ruthless player-killing tactics, you will be known as a habitually ruthless player-killing host. Even the most fervently masochistic player will eventually tire of regularly composing new character records, thus enticing them to seek entertainment elsewhere. As for those even slightly attached for their characters? They'll avoid you at all costs, lest their special-snowflake concept fail to live an sufficiently long lifespan.

-Lazy Storytelling/Hosting
Any option that limits PC interaction is lazy, plain and simple, and forcing death on a player does exactly that; limit their options.

-Unexpected Accidents
In the realm of random chance and probability, anything can happen. Despite knowing this, many hosts have been placed in an awkward situation after their deathtraps of choice have yielded an unexpected result. This can range from killing the wrong target/number of targets, to simply failing to dispatch anyone at all. Though this danger is present for most pre-planned factors, the chance for collateral damage is particularly great in the matter of instant death.

-Personal Issues
As previously stated, people can get pretty attached to their fictional creations. While some people can handle the death of said creation within a heroic or noble context, the idea of having their prized creation dispatched by a singular factor may often be more than they can personally handle. This can result in anything from a prolonged, awkward silence to a violent outburst. It's highly advised that you're familiar with your group's various temperaments and levels of maturity before making the decision to actively 'off' characters.

I've done my best to summarize the major points of this questionable conflict. What one does with the information I've provided is obviously theirs to determine.

Intro

1 comments

Having a modest wealth of experience in several manners of tabletop gaming (with a focus on D&D), I've decided to create this blog as a sort of personal repository. An amalgamation, of you will, of the various tips, techniques, and interests I've acquired within this particular genre of recreation. Though my main intention is to keep a journal-esque record of these evolutions, I also hope this material can serve other, like-minded individuals.

Having said that, here's a maze to perplex your victim of choice.