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Why Mechanics & Rules Matter

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When you enter a new system there’s usually a setting attached. It doesn’t have to be provided by the publishers because it’s inherent in the way the rules allow characters to interact with their setting. If uber-powerful reincarnated gods can be mowed down by a single squad of archers when the rule descriptions say otherwise then there’s a dissonance which undermines the fundaments of the game; and that is detrimental to fun.

Of course it’ll be impossible to make perfect mechanics because of preference differences. We can see that some rulesets expect an adversarial game-table in the way they describe the game running. Others expect the GM to provide for player desires and adapt to whatever they want, implying the GM is their to provide for the players. We all come to the table to get something out of it so it is best to co-operate.

I have a little saying: “Practice the 3BCs”.

  1. Be constructive. No matter what you do try to move towards building something for your game.
  2. Be co-operative. Work with everyone else at the table. Build characters to feed of each other. Consult the GM for ways to have hooks built-in to your background, or to get place-names incorporated into your BG.
  3. Be creative. With the above provisions you can fuel the creative fires and start building an awesome campaign.

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Kiltayre: Session 24 ideas

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SUMMARY

Five fingers of stone
Five swords of bone
Many yards of silk
Many of strange ilk
Two bears and three deer
Two trees and a titan’s tear

The five fingers of stone: the Hand of Gulresh. Houses a deep earth crystal mine that is worked by Goblins who are being controlled because Scours have all the goblin-females prisoner.

Kentos’ shouldermen guarded their liege’s tomb and a book of Fimbulwinter. Each of the fie shouldermen bore a sword of bone.

Silk draping through the Sipran keep library led to Stonecrest; a place with many of strange ilk.

All three books are in the possession of the Church. The two bears have the three deer.

The Titan’s Tear has been located by Felghanis after questioning Allabrahni. What are the two trees?

NEXT

We’re in the final run, now, and the players need to figure out a course of action. I think they’re a bit lost as to what they can actually achieve regarding the books. With that in mind have some events planned which can help nudge, or have them trip over, a decent course of action.

There’s a real-world time-limit on this game. It has to be wrapped up in about 9 sessions. Given the ground we can cover in one session I think this is entirely possible, but probably not at L13-15 like we discussed at the table.

However, there’s some cool side-plots to resolve first. Some of which may tie into the main plot arc. I’ll keep you all posted.

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Kiltayre: Session 20 ideas

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The players have encountered the “diversion”: a sword demon. A feararkh blade from the Pale of War. It has been giving them a serious smack down. All the foreshadowing of its power was ignored by one player and the rest stuck with them anyway to try and keep Felghanis alive.

Fate Points were burned! No-one has more than two left after starting with four each.

I think they can salvage it without spending more and technically they can’t spend more since the Fate Point wasn’t intended to ignore a blow and stay in the fight. It was intended to keep the PC alive after the blow and use the narrative to explain why they didn’t die. Good example is Kellor after being struck by Thiridea’s poleaxe. It certainly looked like the dwarf had his head smashed in but when they checked him Kellor was alive, unconscious and missing his ear along with a swath of skin off the side of his head – making the mess they thought was his skull’s contents.

Unfortunately I was caught up in the excitement and fear of the confrontation with the Feararkh and allowed, if not encouraged, the use of the Fate Points in that way. And to top off the bad GM’ing brought in Fenris as a TPK preventer (god mode Sue?). I reneged on that and ret-con’d it after the session ended. It was fairly pointed out to my face that was what I had done and although it cut a bit it felt good to “undo” it.

Given the party are in a bad tactical situation I have to think of some narratives to save the day.

1) The fate points already spent will still do what they were meant to. OOC explanation will be made up front to clarify how FP are intended to work and what the IC ramifications are going to be. That is PC’s will be “saved” by the FP already spent but still go down and look dead. In future that is all that FP will be able to do.

2) Intervention: there is a caster within the keep, Lady Murelle, who could intervene and possibly save the party.

3) Aftermath: FP based survival has the characters “wake up” to the aftermath.

I don’t know what’ll happen, and I have a few more ideas that I won’t list, but I’m hoping to get it back in the good zone after my GM stuff-ups.

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Kiltayre Session 12: Ideas

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Session 11 really put the rudder on the party, I felt. The books of Fimbulwinter show the means of what is happening. It’s the motive and whom that remain unanswered. This is a good thing because can’t have it all revealed in the middle; it ruins the climax of the tale.

What’s coming? The players are likely to head to Kentos’ Barrow. Greywynd River, and its surrounding woods, is the territory of Garren. They’ll risk encountering the Wood Wraiths and all that entails.

My feeling, as GM, is that we’ve regained some cohesion with the main plot and put the direction back into the group (in-game). It’s looking good for the next few sessions.

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Kiltayre Session 11: ideas

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Well, the big hook in the Iron Tower still hasn’t got enough bait on it to  get the players to bite. They are giving me the impression that intentions are for exploring the whole tower. After encountering the boneclaw-sarcophagi they are rightfully cautious.

We may have a new player joining us in a fortnight which would be great. The dynamic will shift a bit with that player able to bring a lot of energy and characterization to the table. Still too early to say, though.

Other plans are for some more revelations on the big plot which they’ll likely be able to piece together most all of what is going on. But that will present them with the “what the hell can we do about that” conundrum. And that is where the fun begins!

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Kiltayre: Session 10 planning ideas

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One of the premises of this game was that the characters are from the same village, trust each other, are friends, and as GM I will keep the CR’s within the DMG recommended strata. This has all been met, mostly, with some PC’s drifting into distrust of the others out of player-habit, and out of one PC’s actions.

What I’ve noticed is that some of the players just fall into the same character with a new suite of powers (the current build). Do you have players doing this?

 

For Session 10; the PCs are at the Iron Tower and I hope they continue to explore. The incentives are pretty good since there is nothing about for 50 miles of snowy wastes. 50 miles away is the Black Tower, counterpart to the one they are in, so its not much of an incentive because the PC’s can reasonably expect it to be similar.

 

The mention of war, the Rhett invading from the south with one of their first reported victories being the PC’s home town has fizzled out (in what is discussed at the table & in-character). However, that is mostly environmental with a little bit of avoiding the RP that could be had. It will really take them returning to civilization for this to come back to focus – they need other people about, and their communication, to find out more about this.

 

When we get back to the original rhyme, from the Seer-woman in Felk Bay, we are only up to:

“Five swords of bone.”

Yet it seems they may have found them in the walking sarcophagi with their bone-claw attacks… or have they?

 

Another premise, although recent, is that we’ll escalate towards Epic-ness. That means pushing it out to levels in the teens, where the PC’s will be amongst the most powerful beings in the land. And for that I have a whopper of a subplot that even Erikson might enjoy.

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Kiltayre Campaign: GM Ideas for Session 8

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Session 8 is looming close and with the party in gaol they may be hitting a motivational crisis. As players, and as the characters, dealing with imprisonment is difficult. The emotions rise and people become desperate to get out. Bribery, violence, promises, imploring for empathy, all the tools of someone who thinks they may be hurt and does not have the ability to adequately defend themselves. It really is a horrible place to be and, in essence, is a kind of emotional abuse. Thankfully it’s only a game and all of this is a kind of “program” being run in the sub-routines of the players brains.

This is the kind of magic of RPG’s. We can use our experiences and knowledge to place ourselves in the situation of the characters. A kind of mental simulation of the experience. How intense this can become depends on the investment and capacity for imagination of the player. Frankly, if it’s enjoyable for everyone at the table it’s working as it should.

What’s in store for them?

Quite a bit is lined up. What I think they’ll do is plea their case as if it’s a court. The unfortunate part of this is it is a religious court and all the mockeries of justice that go with that will be in play. What I expect will happen shall be quite a surprise for them. Especially when I drop the news that a war has started whilst they were traipsing about the wilderness for 50 days.

We’ll see what happens because they certainly will have the opportunity to hang themselves by saying too much. But that’s okay. We’re playing with Fate Points (save your ass points) and it will mean some strange occurrence will save them all.

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Kiltayre: GM notes

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We’re about 5 sessions into the arc. It’s based on a few concepts:

A group of small-town, quite naive, friends adventuring together.

A “destiny” for the characters.

Play-style that is about the characters actually making it to the end of the main-plot.

Dangerous environment that requires co-operation, resource-tracking and planning to survive.

 

Given these influences on the game the style is a bit of a departure from our previous games. They were more about action and tactics than about heroics and interplay. That is still a part of the game but it’s dominance in the fore of attention has waned. They players are well aware they are potent for their level but understand that they can encounter threats far beyond their own combat capability. However, as GM I’ve committed to keep the base meta-game in play. That is encounter levels/CR are within the stated guidelines of the core books.

 

In combination with the game-rule elements of Fate Points and the in-game phylacteries, the PCs have a very strong case for making it to the end of the main plot. The challenge is to keep them motivated to pursue the main plot. So far it’s working well.

 

Last session was a bit of a “haunting”. With strange noises, slamming doors that shifted which way they opened, and the “ghost” in the crypt. Although the end of the game had them pointed straight back at the crypt it was great mental cliff-hanger (IMO) and it seemed to have the effect on the players’ faces.

 

Next session the grand plot will start to become visible to the players. Hopefully it will really push their buttons and get them motivated even more. For me, if an RPG is not about emotions then it is only about tactics and one may as well play miniature war-games instead.

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What are we rolling for?

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Often it seems to me that rolling is done by GM’s to decide – more than determine. The difference between those concepts is that to decide, means the action hasn’t been determined, yet. To determine is to decide on action, and then see if it is successful.

So why roll when to decide on an action? Perhaps it’s a chance-based assessment of the likelihood of success. Kind of like an internal skill-check before committing to an action. Sometimes it’s just an internal way of deciding what the NPC will do because the GM hasn’t really thought enough about it.

EG. If I roll a high enough number then the NPC will cast a net at the party, otherwise flee.

Is it wrong? No. Is it right? No. It’s neither. It’s like saying that someone using an adjustable wrench to undo a nut is wrong because they didn’t use a ring spanner. Some people might have the mental equivalent of a pneumatic impact driver for undoing nuts (thinking of NPC actions and decisions) where most of us are bodging multi-grips into the role. Use what keeps the spirit of your game progressing and building.

 

rolling-dice

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