Wednesday, 24 February 2021

The smaller picture


To what extent a GM should paint a full picture is definitely an issue at least when I come to running a game. Fundamentally I prefer character awareness or more specifically context to reflect somewhat realistically against the world we know. I suppose this is more of a day in the life perspective so for example a soldier or their platoon will have a clear job in front of them but wont be aware of the overall aims of the battle whether they are critical in achieving a specific objective or sacrificed for a larger aim. Likewise a rogue may have gained enough information for a lucrative opportunity but the consequences of his actions will inevitably pursue him over time. Hindsight is a wonderful thing provided players get a chance to learn from it and steer a game going forward.

In gaming terms players can feel somewhat unhinged or dethatched at the start of a campaign particularly in strange surroundings or alien cultures which can be naturally frustrating at first but for me an adventure is not just about achieving an aim but also glimpsing the larger forces at work that shape the world that defines the characters within it. This is probably why I am drawn to games like Chill as knowledge of the Unknown is gained piecemeal and returned to the Library but as time goes by a sense of real experience is gained as a world is pieced together and the motivations and properties of its inhabitants are slowly divined; one can peek into the other world but prolonged exposure is dangerous and full revelation will lead to madness.

To a degree I think its important to offer players a strong sense of satisfaction at the end of  an adventure but I draw short at a full disclosure in order to preserve some sense of mystery and also possible follow up games of course. Throwing bones to players may come in the form of undead but dont forget to dish out the occasional piece of meat as well.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Rental Market


Strangely I bumped into a half-orc at work last week although it shouldn't be that surprising really as there will be a statistical model describing our hobbies akin to the odds of bumping into someone with the same birthday. In that specific case a work mate had just started plating D&D and popped into the office for some help printing out an encounter map. So we got chatting and it turns out he was a long standing fan of critical role and was arranging a game for his children. Now running a game for kids needs careful thought and in his case they hadn't yet reached their teenage years so there is some general if not obvious advice. Keep it super simple and if the kids want to get creative with their characters and items then just let them, rules are there to control their actions not their character. But you can be robust, they are tough little cookies and if  you have to kill off the party then fine as long as there is a way for them to jump straight back into the game to avenge their deaths for example then they will be perfectly fine with this.

As my workmate wasn't particularly confident to run the game  as well as wanting to play on the side of his family he decided to get on line an hire a GM for some sessions. This isnt the first time that I have come across this and there are now specific sites such as Rolldark one can visit to contract someone as well as asking around your local club. In his case unfortunately he chose someone with such a thick Irish accent that it was difficult for him to clearly understand what he was saying but understanding vocals does improve rapidly with exposure so he is persevering.

Whilst I dont think there is a necessarily a career path ahead for running games bar some notable influencers, there is certainly a lot of loose change for around for those willing to put in the effort to introduce daughters to dragons.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021



If your most captivating paintings have involve cutting shapes out of potatoes or your proudest musical productions follow a good curry or indeed your literary opus magnus presents with post-it notes on the fridge, then, like me you are most likely a few strings short of a full Mozart. Having said this most people unknowingly express their creativity needs just through day to day conversations - a thousand words is worth a picture for most of us and we consume our narratives from a wide selection of on line mega libraries these days to satiate the artistic hunger. For my p in the art I get to play with the weekly words to feed the Google Engines and it keeps my inner Van Gough at bay.

As a current GM the demands are more exacting of course and this is perfectly normal - a little experience goes a long way. My main dilemma for this round of games was whether to re-run a previous campaign or roll out a new one. Now artists in general never like to re-produce work as duplication is by definition not creative but my last Planescape plot worked very well indeed so I thought  I would repeat an adventure for the first time. I had to fight back the creative ideas that try to flood a new session and repetition is dangerously dull for me so its a consideration but what I forgot of course is that the GM is mostly the canvass to a game and its the players that generate the colour.

Case in point as last Thursday after an initial calibration of the new characters, the party immediately went off road in a completely different direction compared to the previous group that played this scenario and quite rightly too. Where they lead then I and my minions shall follow and I will keep the plot chains as loose as possible. I think the takeaway for the GM is not to top load a game too much  initially as the players will want to generate most of the content themselves - as circumstances naturally arise, so will narratives which is both more authentic and organic which is how history actually happens. 

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Screen Time


GM preparation is a thing, both artistically and mechanically and with the Black Death still upon us the electronic world continues to demand its due. More accurately as a GM I am familiar enough with Roll20 now having use it for the Warhammer, Star Trek and the tongue in cheek 5e Brighthelm adventures but as I suspected the management of RPG digital assets, just like in any digital artwork job really, is extraordinarily time consuming. In a sense it shouldn't matter as the imagination should be the only canvas but a commitment to everyone staring at their screens means that the players should really have something to look at. Like most things in life it will be a matter of expediency I think and so I am happy enough to put images in front of players in terms of thematics but instancing any particular moment is going to come down to scrawly mouse writing. As I am running a Planescape, set scenes will be hard to come by as the party could potentially be going anywhere.

There is of course another slippery slope on the roll20 approach as from the moment  you are moving icons across a screen you are, by definition playing a computer game. It is a matter of necessity these days so any criticism will be unfair but I sense its already stretching club patience as some of us never engaged initially with on line play and as time has gone by there are those choosing to take a break from staring at the screen.

For now we will make the most of the tools we have and do what we can to fire the spirit. It will be interesting to test the medium against a traditional approach as a GM but hopefully this will be the last rotation before daylight reminds us to shave out beards regularly once more.