• Miscellaneous

    Obviously, the best way to reward your D&D players for participating is to have a good game ready. But when youíve found a good group and want to dig deeper to enhance the experience, here are a few methods for rewarding your players. Some are DM-specific, but others can apply to any player or the whole group.

    So, you're playing a tabletop RPG for the first time. Congratulations! You're in for an adventure. However, you're probably also feeling a little overwhelmed. Even if you're familiar with other kinds of gaming, tabletop RPGs come with their own specific sets of challenges. With that in mind, let's talk about a few things that will make your gaming experience a critical success.

    Coming soon to your favourite audio device is a new podcast all about the latest tabletop roleplaying game news! It won't necessarily be accurate, or informative, or even competent, but we will try to have fun! Join Morrus and Peter Coffey each week. You might learn something. But you probably won't.

    In the late 70s and early 80s there were a large number of magazines running around that talked about gaming in general and role playing games in particular. Of course most people are familiar with Dragon Magazine or the early White Dwarf, but I wonder how many remember the gem from Task Force Games that did as much to broaden my RPG horizons as either of those. That gem was Nexus Magazine and it began in 1982 talking about of all things, what is a role playing game.

    When the GM puts in the effort to create a game session for your party, and everyone makes time in their busy lives to show up, you might as well make the most of the occasion. Setting the scene for your game and creating a space where you can relax can help immerse you in the experience. Whether you prefer to create an atmosphere that suggests the setting of your game, or choose to focus on the fact that you are hanging out with your friends for a few hours, you can find little ways to make it special.

    A large subset of board games is Eurostyle games. These games are almost exactly the opposite of RPGs in many ways. Keep in mind, board (including some card) games are a vastly larger segment of tabletop gaming than RPGs in monetary terms, and Eurostyle games are a large part of that segment. So even if you have no interest in non-RPGs, a comparison may help you understand what you do (and could do) with your own campaign or RPG design.

    I think that, outside of comic books, the one media that I've glommed onto for the longest part of my life has been horror. But, the longer that I role-play the less interested I become in horror role-playing. Most of the 90s were taken up with Call of Cthulhu and horror-themed GURPS games that I ran. Both of these systems were great for horror for me, but something changed over time.

    Technically, all you need to play Dungeons & Dragons is a set of dice, a pencil, and a character sheet. Sure, itís very helpful to have least one copy of the Players Handbook on the table, of course, but many optional tools are available for players and DMs that can make game play easier, or just more fun.

    As a dungeon master and co-owner of a tabletop game and comic book shop, I meet brand-new players virtually every time I'm behind the counter or the DM screen. D&Dís recent popularity explosion has brought in countless new players. They usually are feeling both excited and intimidated, and it's my job to maintain that excitement and add confidence too.

    I am typically a game master when I game. It is the role that I enjoy the most, and I think that the world building part of the GM's "job" is a big part of what I enjoy. But I do sit on the opposite side of the GM's screen from time to time* and being a player. So, does "world building" apply to character creation?

    There's a lot of "superstitious mumbo jumbo" (to quote Sir Alec Guiness about The Force in Star Wars') in the world. I take the scientific, naturalistic approach. I don't accept the supernatural as an explanation for anything, so why would I think there can be anything magical or supernatural in dice rolling/games?

    While I'm not much of a fan of the song (and I didn't care for the movie it came from), I've been hearing a few commercials lately using the Bonnie Tyler song "I Need A Hero," and it has triggered thoughts on heroes and heroism in gaming.

    There are two ways of rating fictional characters that you want to add to role-playing games (and other types of games as well). These are the functional method and the emotional/perceptual method (for want of a better name).

    What did I do to change the mechanisms of Spelljammer when I devised my own version?

    Most role-playing game adventures depend on the player characters going out into the world seeking adventure. They leave their homes or bases of operation and travel to a dungeon, a wizard's tower or a newly discovered planet. But sometimes an adventure designer wants to take the story to the players' doorstep.

    I enjoyed playing Spelljammer in conjunction with the 1e D&D rules back in the day - I'm a naval guy at heart. For those who don't remember, it's FRPG in outer space, with different physics and magical spaceships that often resemble creatures such as sharks or wasps, for 7th-13th level. (There was a brief version in Dungeon Magazine for 3e as well.) I read that we may see a new version for 5e, so I dug out some old notes in order to discuss the design of the original game.

    In writing these articles I have come to understand how many people are voiceless in the collective imaginary land that is role playing games. I hope that these articles make our hobby and industry a place where more people are welcomed and encouraged to become involved. Which brings me to North America, the part the second.

    The concept of player agency is a central pillar of all role-playing games. It is a balancing factor against the omnipotent, omniscient Game Master. For the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on the smaller-scale application of player agency and the role of game mechanics that negate or modify such agency.

    Today I bring up a topic usually glossed over in worldbuilding for gaming: Literacy. Itís a skill that we take for granted, given that you are reading this column on a website. Literacy wasnít always historically widespread, however, and a crafty GM can contrive clever situations hinging upon it.

    I recently talked with a gamer who's often full of unusual, and sometimes impractical, ideas. He asked me about the difficulties of running a medieval-style low-magic D&D campaign. Lord of the Rings had to come up in the conversation, because it's the most well-known low magic fantasy setting in existence. If you take a functional rather than emotional view of the characters, in First Edition D&D terms Aragorn amounts to a seventh level ranger and Gandalf the Grey to an eighth level cleric with a Ring of Fire, and other characters are similarly low level. (I'll discuss in detail this another time.) Magic and "super-power" is immensely rare in this setting.

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