Game Mastery

Author Archive

No Dice – Skills

by on Aug.04, 2013, under NoDice

Designing skills really surprised me.  Stats were easy.  Rules have been easy (although choosing which of those rules are worth keeping is another matter).  I figured I’ve played more games than I can keep track of, so I should be able to churn out a skill list with little thought at all.  I couldn’t have been more wrong and aside from when I was trying to typeset a character sheet, this has been the hardest part of the process so far.


So why was it so hard to list skills?  Before I can answer that, let’s have a look at the requirements the skills had to fill.


(continue reading…)

Leave a Comment more...

My Game – Stats

by on Jul.21, 2013, under NoDice

As previously mentioned, I’d like to start writing about my homebrew system.  Since the system is diceless and I’m creative and motivated I’ve tenatatively named it “No Dice.”  I’ve created a category here for relevant posts, including a few from the backlogs.  You can view it here:

So first thing first, I’d like to talk about attributes.

(continue reading…)

Leave a Comment more...

What do your players bring to the table?

by on Jul.14, 2013, under Uncategorized

Originally this was a StackExchange answer presenting the classification I use when inviting players to my games. But it’s a work in progress so it didn’t really fit there.

Most schemes I’ve seen classify players by what they get out of playing – the buttkicker wants to fight, the method actor wants to pretend, the optimizer wants to crunch numbers, etc. They all address the things you need to put into your games. What I’d like to classify instead is what the addition of a player will bring to your table.

(continue reading…)

Leave a Comment more...

State of the Blog

by on Jul.10, 2013, under Uncategorized

Hi blog.  Long time no see.  Sorry about that.  It’s not you, it’s me.

Okay, here’s the deal.  I haven’t gamed since my son was born.  He’s almost two.  The posts you’ve seen in the last two years have been based on ideas or experiences that I had before then, but I’ve mostly run out of those.  I have a todo list of ideas and a few half finished posts that could use some finishing touches.  But as much as I want to keep writing here, without regular gaming I don’t have material to write about.


So, let’s shift what I’m writing about.


First off, please ask me questions.  I participate in a few RPG forums, but I usually hold back there.  Nobody likes reading a wall of text, so I usually post replies in paragraph form.  But if you ask me something here, I’ll try to answer it in full.


Secondly, even though I haven’t been gaming I have been homebrewing.  I figure that if I can’t get my fix with a gaming group, the next best thing is to write a system.  I have plenty of ideas for that.  Now, I don’t want to turn this into the blog about my game system.  But I also don’t want to turn it into another blog that never gets posts.  Given a choice between the two, I’d rather write posts about my system.  So that’s what you’re gonna get.

Leave a Comment more...

Rethinking encumbrance with an alternative abstraction

by on Aug.31, 2012, under homebrew, NoDice

So I’ve had this idea for a different way to do encumbrance kicking around in the old noggin for a while.  Then I read What’s in your backpack?  A healthy dose of reality and started thinking about it again.

What it comes down to is this.  I don’t like weight as an abstraction for how encumbered you are.  It should be a factor for sure, but you shouldn’t be able to carry a dozen 10 foot poles without issue just because they’re light weight.

What I do like as an inventory system is the grid based inventory CRPGs use.  I think the first one I saw was in Diablo.  Long items took up more space.  And that axe head protrudes down from the rest of the axe.  And you get to sort all that stuff to make it fit.

Well, that’s great for computer games but not so great in pen and paper.  As a general rule, I’d like my mechanics to simplify things.  Fitting stuff in a grid simplifies nothing.  I haven’t found a way to satisfy the shape element of the grid inventory.  Instead, lets use the size part.  Different items take up different amounts of space.  You have a limited number of slots to store things…

Why not treat a line of text as a slot?  You get one item per line.  And you have a number of lines equal to the size of your backpack.  Let’s just call a backpack 10 items.  Write backpack on your sheet, draw a box around the next 10 lines.  Done.

Well, not quite.  Items need some level of size.  I don’t think D&D’s approach of weighing each item is any good.  Too much math for anyone to want to recalculate it.  But I also don’t want a backpack full of chainmail to encumber you the same as a backpack full of feathers.

So items will need some sort of size.  Let’s go with small, medium and large.  Instead of item weights, you’ll just use their encumbrance value.  This is an abstraction of weight, size, unwieldiness, etc.

Now let’s go back to the backpack.  Instead of holding any 10 items, let’s say it’s a container that holds 10 medium items.  The backpack itself would have to be large.  Maybe one of the medium items is a first aid kid, which itself is a container of small items.

Basically you’re getting a number of slots to fill in with items of varying sizes.  This doesn’t seem as obnoxious as tallying object weights and looking up an encumbrance chart.

But what about actually carrying these things?  Well, I think the way to do that is to give the body itself slots for carrying.  If a person has 3 large slots, that’s a backpack, armor, and weapon.  To give a bit of realism, lets make that number of slots a variable.  In D&D parlance, we’ll use the strength modifier.  Give each PC a number of large item slots equal to his strength mod plus one (with a minimum of one, or else the weaklings can’t carry anything).  Packs and weapons occupy large slots.  I imagine donning armor would occupy a slot as well (maybe more than one for certain types of armor?  If so, this would be the first system I saw that made you take off your backpack because it didn’t fit around your armor).  I might even introduce more types of containers, just so the strong characters get to carry more.  ie, the backpack  carries 10 medium items and occupies 1 large slot, but the hiking frame carries 16 medium items at the cost of 2 large slots.

On paper this would look something like

Body (L)
Backpack (M)
Medkit (S)

I know I’m biased, but this seems a lot simpler than keeping track of the weights of all your items. It would automatically keep you from carrying stupidly unwieldy things by factoring size as well as weight. The container business might be a little over-engineered, but it was the best I came up with. (The alternative was to say that large items took up more slots. Saying a greataxe is worth three swords is fine, but I don’t really want to know how many eyes of newt correspond to a single tower shield.)

Anyway, if you find this usable please let me know. I’ve gone a year without RPGs and that’s not likely to change. Someone else will have to beta test this one for me.

Leave a Comment : more...

A quick observation on what the players get out of the game.

by on Oct.24, 2011, under game theory, GM, observations

I finally hung out with my players again.  Game ended two months ago and I’ve been reclusive since then.  They were telling some other friends stories about the game.

Without fail, all of their stories were player driven.  None of the plots that I wrote were retold.  Everything the PCs told our friends was a situation where they decided something had to happen and took the initiative to see it through.

I’m not griping that they don’t appreciate my stories, quite the opposite.  I’m proud of them for leading the narrative.  And I’m pleased with myself for giving them the opportunity.

But I want to emphasis that GMs who shut down their players in favor of a preconceived story are selfish.  Your players are not an audience.  If they want a story on rails, they’ll read a book, watch a movie, or play a video game.  They’re roleplaying because they want control over the story.  They’ll remember those times you let them drive the story.  They’ll also remember those times you shut down their plans to go off rails, but not in a good way

Leave a Comment more...

Game Wrap – Travel

by on Sep.12, 2011, under dnd4e, observations, self improvement

I got a lot more mileage than expected out of the Game Wrap posts.  This last topic (for values of “last” pertaining to the original list of Game Wrap topics.  I’ll probably come up with more thoughts and observations later.  For now this is the end though) is something I’m still struggling with, because it’s something I’m still torn on.

(continue reading…)

Leave a Comment more...

Game Wrap – Campaign Setting

by on Sep.09, 2011, under GM, observations, Uncategorized

This was the first campaign where I’ve fully embraced a campaign setting.  Before this I usually bit off a section of a campaign setting and ignored the rest.  We’d stick to a city or town and have an adventure there, but ignore the rest of the world.  It makes the game seem small and severely limits the scope of what you can do, which is why I preferred it for my 8-10 session long adventures.

I should add the caveat that when I say ‘campaign setting’ I mean something explicitly written as a campaign setting.  The game before this was set in George R.R. Martin’s Westeros.  I spent a lot of time rereading the books and finding resources for world info.  Going into this game, I expected my experience with Westeros to be similar to using FR as a setting.

(continue reading…)

Leave a Comment more...

Game Wrap – NPCs as caricatures

by on Sep.06, 2011, under dnd4e, observations, organization, self improvement

Some time ago I wrote about trying to wear NPCs as hats.  I’m more of a method actor (assuming you can call what I do acting at all), so switching around between NPCs has always been a challenge for me.  In a previous post I discussed my plan to treat NPCs as caricatures, defining their outward traits first, never worrying about their inner psychology.

I’d link to that earlier post, but the method sucked and the beginning of the game sucked because of it.

(continue reading…)

1 Comment more...

Game Wrap – Hold the fudge

by on Sep.05, 2011, under dnd4e, GM, observations

I’ve previously advocated the use of fudging to fix die rolls.  This game changed my mind.

(continue reading…)

Leave a Comment more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Visit our friends!

A few highly recommended friends...