Monday, August 31, 2015

A Living Campaign

As hard as it is to get an adventure put together, sometimes it's great to go the extra mile.  Sometimes, as you are putting that adventure together, you and your players forget that the characters are part of a bigger world.  So here are a few ideas I have to make your players feel part of a bigger world.

1) Rumors.  Have the bards in the near by tavern your characters frequent talk about the goings on in the nearby, and not so nearby, areas of the world.  This is a good way to sneak in an adventure hook, but also a good way to get your players knowledge of the world.

2) Town criers and newspaper.  Printing presses are rare, but in bigger cities they will be available.  Some of these cities will have local news in small papers.  They won't be like normal papers you see today, (certainly no comics or piles of advertisements), but they will definitely let you get some information out.  Same with the town criers sitting on a corner and shouting the newest news of the day.

3) A primer before you start.  Sometimes you can just give a list of major events that have happened since the last adventure in the world.  A king was crowned here, a kingdom taken down there.  This may give the players a wish to go somewhere new and give you more adventure ideas.

Happy Gaming!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

When Gaming Becomes a Chore Part 3

My last thought on making gaming not a chore, but fun, like it should be, is to keep it simple.  I like great story arcs, spanning lots of adventures.  (Thus the writing thing.  Who would have guessed?)  But you don't have to be so elaborate.  Sometimes, just smashing some orcs or saving a group of slaves is enough.  I know when we prepared for exams in college, smashing orcs was always a good way to blow off steam.  I wouldn't recommend this sort of adventure every time, otherwise you're just playing a video game only slower, but on those weeks when you realize you don't have time to really work on a great adventure, throw a couple of random encounters in as the party goes from one point to another.  This is a rough time.  There aren't police and there are lots of bandits in those wide open wilds.  Use that to your advantage!

Happy Gaming!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

When Gaming Becomes a Chore Part 2

A quick, easy fix to getting a roleplaying fix in a busy life is to cheat a bit and get a pre-generated adventure.  I know, I know.  I hear the groans from here.  A lot of those pre-generated adventures are awful.  I totally agree.  We refused to use them when we were in college and had tons of time on our hands, (granted we didn't know we had tons of time on our hands at the time...), to work on adventures.  But as time is so valuable, now, they look a lot more viable.  And the pre-generated adventures are a lot better put together, now.  I believe this is because people are willing to spend more money on good adventures and game makers are listening more to their customers to see what works.

Here's an example of what I mean.  My husband is running Rise of the Runelords by Paizo in the Pathfinder system and it is awesome.  Even NPC's that are in there for like a blink of the eye are given great backgrounds and reasons to be where they are.  If you really are into the roleplaying aspect, it's great.  And descriptions and flavor text are awesome.  I haven't got to look at a lot of it, since I'm not the GM, but what we've adventured through has been well done.  The best part is, my husband just has to read the adventure, tweak it a bit to fit our level (since we didn't start out at the start level), and make sure he is ready for any curve we might throw his way.  My daughter is playing a dwarf paladin and she wanted a mount.  There happens to be a lovely war horse, (mistreated, but still alive) in the goblin lair.  So my husband just made sure she was the one who got in there first to talk the horse out of the enclosure it was trapped in.  Instant Paladin mount!

All the XP awards and treasure are all there, (though a good GM makes sure there is treasure appropriate for his player characters), so there is very little work on the GM's part.

More on making things easier tomorrow!
Happy Gaming!

Monday, August 24, 2015

When Gaming Becomes a Chore Part 1

With the way my life is going I feel as if I'm going in five (or more) different directions at once.  When you were in college or single, there was time to game and do everything else you wanted to do.  With kids, jobs and volunteer activities, your life get's crowded and busy.  But if you are like my husband and I, you really want to game, as well.  The hard part is finding time to do so and not feeling as if it's just another chore on your list.  Let's discuss some things we do to still have fun and not feel like we are obligated to play roleplaying games.

My first advice is to try and make a little time every day to work on an adventure if you are the GM.  I don't always take this advice, sorta like I don't always write every day like I should, but if you try and spend ten or fifteen minutes a day on setting up stuff, it won't feel like a chore.  One day I might do a room description, the next make up a main bad guy or his minions.  If you take it a step at a time, it doesn't seem like a time a sink.  I usually do this in between my real chores or volunteer activities, so it feels like fun, versus a chore.

Tomorrow some ideas to help make planning easy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Game Aide Hints for GMs Part 4

Food!  Gaming just wouldn't be gaming without food.  So here are a few ideas.

1) Have chips/nuts/other snacks on hand.  Soda or other drinks are always a good idea.  Maybe you take turns bringing it or maybe there is a money pool to buy it for the group. For those of you who like coffee, having someone bring creamer and you supply the coffee is always a good idea.

2) Potluck!  This is a good thing to try.  Everybody has to bring something and you can try different and new foods.  During my writing group days we would have potlucks and I learned to like a lot of different oriental foods made the traditional way, not Chinese restaurant ways.  Plus, it gives you lots of food to snack on for the four plus hours you may be playing!

3) Order in.  This isn't a good idea every session, but if you are capable, it is fun.  If you live in the sticks, like we do, then this option may not be so available.  When we were in college we'd order the midnight special from Dominos for 5 bucks and everyone would be ready for another few hours of play.  It does break up the play, but sometimes you need a break to gather your thoughts, whether a player or the GM.

Happy Gaming!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Game Aid Hints for GMs Part 3

Notes are always a good idea.  You have no idea how many times I've run a campaign and one of my players have remembered some obscure detail and I'm stumped.  So here are a few things I've done to help me remember the small things that sometimes aren't so small.

1) Keep a spiral!  Get the big highlights down, for sure, like NPCs you have to make up on the fly, spectacular fight highlights, and names of buildings you add in.  Anything else you can get down is gravy.  After an adventure, I always re-write my notes, whether in another spiral or on a running word document.

2) Have handy a cheat sheet of character stats.  Hit points, AC and saves are a good thing to have on hand so you can fudge if you need to, (though I know Hackmaster fans always let the dice lay), or roll those sneaky attacks or saves as needed.

3) I also keep a running list of ideas or items I need to expand on.  My daughter got side tracked with a disembodied voice in a ruin she wanted to "save" and named Bob, (for all those Jim Butcher fans).  So I kept a note on that and brought the voice in later for some other adventure.  Little things like this show the players you are paying attention and want them to have fun.

4) Cheat sheet of rules.  Most system have a GM screen with the need to know rules, but if not, make your own sheet up.  Simple things like DC for commonly used skills, common feats, and common battle options, (such as attacks of opportunities or attacks/spells that spawn attacks of opportunities), are good to have on hand.

Tomorrow the all important food.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Game Aid Hints for GMs Part 2

Physical aids are also very helpful when running a campaign.  Depending on the genre the aids may change a bit, but most should be consistent.  Here a few we use.

1) Hex mat and miniatures.  We actually have a square mat, but hex mats would probably be best, since that is easier to see diagonal alignments.  All good game stores sell these and if they don't have them in stock, should be able to get you one.  Miniatures can also be gotten at game stores.  There are a lot of pre-painted miniatures, now, so you don't have to paint them on your own, but games stores will also have non-painted ones and paints to make them as you like.  It's fun, after playing a character for a while, to pick a new miniature out for them.  This is a handy aid so players can see where they are in relation to other players and the bad guys and there is no confusion as to where they placed that fireball.

2) Hand drawn maps.  My husband loves drawing maps for ruins and areas, when he has time.  He use to do so when we were college to add spice to where we were going and we loved them.  Granted, you can always mislead, (on purpose or accident), your players with such maps, but they are fun to add.

3) Scrolls and other written material.  Ransom notes, notes on that secret treasure trove, the secret note to the rival noble, all these are fun to get in physical form and not just described.  It adds depth to what your discussing and if you do it enough, sometimes the players may not actually know for sure what is the important part and what is flavor text so you can keep them on their toes.

Next: Notes for the GM

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Game Aids HInts for GMs Part 1

We've talked in the past about aids some one could use as a GM to help enhance the gaming experience. Let's start with music.

Music can really set the tone for a battle or an intimate meeting.  Why do you think video games spend so much money on having actual orchestras to play their music?  So here are some of my suggestions:

1) For battles, if they are big and epic, or even small ones.  I recommend music from Lord of the Rings, many video games, or other fantasy genre movies.  A lot of classical music is awesome for this as well, (In the Halls of the Mountain King, comes to mind). You can put them on loop for a long battle or pick a huge selection to make sure you have enough.  (We've had a single battle last 5 hours, so be prepared.)

2) For a certain area the party comes upon.  Wouldn't some creepy music for an old tomb be mood setting? Or light, airy music when they come upon a grand old forest housing the ruins of a fabled city?

3) Theme music.  I've mentioned this before, but having a "theme song" for each character is actually a fun idea.  Play it softly in the back ground while they are doing something awesome or character developing!

I know this puts more pressure on the GM, but your players will love the effort!

Next: Physical Aids

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Magic in Martapa

Magic systems also differ from game system to game system.  Again, we prefer Pathfinder.  We like the time it takes to cast the spells, the possible concentration checks, and the power levels.  If you use my world, there will be some mixing and matching of spells, (such as for the Clan Warriors who have both mage and clerical spells), but that can be done with any system.  Don't get wild and crazy, making the class more powerful by giving out all the powerful spells for both classes to one class, but adjust as you see fit.  It's your campaign and you should have a say in how it runs.  Book rules are great starting grounds for everyone, but after some time behind the GM screen, (or years in my husband and I's case), you get a feel of what will work and what won't!

Happy Gaming.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Combat in Martapa

The combat order, and how it runs, will really depend on what system you are using.  Like I've mentioned in the past, my husband and I use Pathfinder and like it's combat system.  But that doesn't mean you couldn't use any combat system you like.  Some systems have a good, believable rule where if you sustain so much damage you have to make a constitution check, (or something similar), to see if you stay on your feet.  This makes for dramatic effects if fighting a major bad guy, and although he has lots of hit points a PC makes an awesome hit and the fight is still on.  It makes the battle memorable!  Pathfinder has an optional rule where if you fail your save if you take half your hit points, (50 point minimum), you actually die.  Hackmaster has a rule where if you fail the save you are out of combat for a certain amount of time.  I like a nice mix, (the 50 hit point minimum, but no instant death).  Having this rule in play is definitely up to your group, since it is very altering in the outcome of the game.  My point is, any fantasy combat system should work just fine for my world of Martapa setting.

Happy Gaming!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Alignment in Martapa

Most game systems have an "alignment" system, to say if a character is evil, good or in between.  If you want to do so while playing in the world of Martapa, keep a few things in mind.

1) There are races that are inherently good, (Ancient Elves), and races that are inherently evil, (ogres), but that does not mean they can't harbor individuals that are of a different alignment.  Good ogres and evil ancient elves are not unheard of.  Roleplaying may be difficult and the character may be hated by otherwise good characters or npcs.

2) Best to have characters with Good or Neutral alignments.  While it is possible to play evil in a campaign, it makes it difficult if not everyone in the party is evil.

3) Try to play to your chosen alignment, but don't let it pin you in.  If you are Neutral Good, don't let that box your character in if you think doing something considered evil would be a good character development point, just be prepared for the consequences.  But also remember if you continue to do such things, your alignment should be changed.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Equipment for Martapa

For the most part, what ever equipment your RPG system uses, should be good.  The only difference, as a GM, you should worry about is the money system.  On Maratpa the money system is as follows:
2 Half Pennies = 1 Copper Penny
5 Copper Pennies = 1 Silver Eagle
5 Silver Eagles = 1 Gold Ducats
5 Gold Ducats = 1 Steel Knights
10 Steel Knights = 1 Platinum Dragon

To translate into your money system, Gold Ducats would equal Gold coins in any other game system.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Feats of Martapa Part 4

Two Arrow Shot
Allows you to shoot two arrows at once.
Prerequisite: 13th level, class that uses range weapons, Deadly Aim, Rapid Shot
Benefit: This allows a character to shoot two arrows at once.  Each arrows attack roll is rolled separately with a -4 to hit for each arrow.  Damage is done as normal.