Game Mastery

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Game Wrap – If I could take back any one mistake…

by on Sep.01, 2011, under dnd4e, observations, self improvement

As I’ve mentioned, one of the themes of my last game was trying to break my own rules.  Early on in game planning I came up with a crazy idea for a backup scenario.  If a certain overpowered boss fight wiped out the party, the only idea I had for fixing it was to declare that the world had lost.  The bad guys were too powerful.  And the players would have to go back in time to slow them down, before things got so bad.  The idea only got more over the top from there.

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Game Wrap – Player Agency

by on Aug.31, 2011, under dnd4e, observations

With last post’s introduction to level skipping I encountered a problem.  I wanted to jump over some sections of the plot between levels.   When I started jumping levels, the players were in Vesperin and needed to get to Tantras.  For those of you without a ridiculous Knowledge: Geography of the Forgotten Realms check, that’s about 1000 miles1.

I didn’t want to skip over the travel.  Doing so makes light of the huge world I’ve chosen.  I use campaign settings for a reason, and to throw them out when they’re inconvenient invalidates the whole setting.  I also didn’t want to describe a thousand miles of traveling misadventure to my players.  Well, I did, but I didn’t think they’d want to listen.  Unless it came back up, they’d know it was filler.  And if it was important enough to come back up, they’d rather have a say in what happened than allow me to narrate their actions.  There’s no point in playing a game where the GM has full say in what you choose to do.

So I opted to give the players full agency of the situation.  The results were fantastic.

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Game Wrap – Level Skipping

by on Aug.30, 2011, under dnd4e, GM, observations, self improvement

This one should be short and sweet.  I thought the biggest disruption to my recent game would be getting married.  We took 6 weeks off and lost a ton of momentum.  Turns out that the Mrs. and I found another way to disrupt my GMing.  She’s due to roll character creation in about 10 days.  That’s why game ended when it did.

Being extremely slow, I didn’t realize I wouldn’t be able to run a game and manage a baby at the same time until we were about 5 sessions away from the due date.  The PCs were level 12 at the time.  I saw two options.  Keep them around this level and finish off the local plots, but leave the bigger plots unresolved.  Or fast forward between levels and story elements.  I elected to fast forward.

We played a session at levels 12, 15, 19, 24, and 30.  This didn’t hurt the story at all.  The problem was we never felt comfortable with the mechanics.  Combat was slow.  Players made mistakes.  I made even more mistakes.  Nobody felt like they knew what they were doing.  And this method gave everyone a ton of homework.

Now I don’t regret this choice, but in retrospect I’d have jumped around a little differently.  I’d have fast forwarded one jump to level 27, and then done one level at a time between sessions.  Then we wouldn’t have as much to process between sessions.

On the other hand, this 3/4/5/6 level jump between sessions really helped the narrative control, which I’ll be discussing just a few posts from now.

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Game Wrap – Let’s Start at the Beginning

by on Aug.29, 2011, under dnd4e, observations, self improvement

After game I asked the players for some immediate feedback.  Different parts of the game worked for different people.  That’s fine, it’s something I was expecting.  One of the GM’s biggest tasks is managing entertainment so that everyone gets what they like a fair share of the time.  But the one thing they all agreed on was my beginning.  It sucked.

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Game Wrap – My experience with D&D 4th Edition

by on Aug.27, 2011, under dnd4e, observations, organization

As of last night, my 4e game of the last 20 months has come to a close.   I decided to challenge myself in this game by breaking a lot of the rules I’d set for myself.  It wasn’t that I was tired of my own GMing style, I just wanted to check that my assumptions and assertions made sense.  Over the next few days, I’d like to discuss the effect of some of those changes and of some of the events of the game in general.

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Does technology help or hinder?

by on Jun.08, 2011, under observations, tech

Been a while since I posted.  It’s not that I haven’t felt like writing, but that all my writing has been for game instead of about game.

That aside, I’m curious about what the role of technology has been in other people’s games.  I’m not sold on character builders yet, but I really like text search in a PDF.  But I’m having some other problems that might be costing me more time than text search is saving.

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Background rewards

by on Nov.24, 2010, under Uncategorized

You may have noticed that I’m a big fan of backstory. I think it adds to the game and makes the GM’s life easier. What I’ve never quite figured out is how to properly reward backstory, until now.

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Link: RPGs on Stack Exchange

by on Oct.25, 2010, under links and articles

Apparently Stack Exchange is branching out.  They now have an RPG section. I’ve been a) curious about how SE style forums would work outside of a technical context and b) pining for a new RPG community that wasn’t a traditional forum for quite a while now. Looks like this will fit the bill. So far it’s a little heavy on system mechanics questions, particular of the 4e variety, for my taste. We’ll see how it develops.

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GMing for large groups

by on Sep.17, 2010, under dnd, GM, player management

So this isn’t a problem I’ve ever had to handle as a GM, but it’s one that comes up regularly and I’m sick of retyping my answers.  I’m also a programmer, so I find the optimization of repeated tasks to be interesting.
At any rate, here are some tips for speeding up a game with too many players.  I expect to add to this post as I find more solutions.

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Show me, don’t tell me

by on Aug.15, 2010, under GM, links and articles, observations

Gnome Stew linked to this post on showing detail rather than telling it.  I quite liked it, especially the part on figuring out which details to show.   Well, I agree that you don’t need to show every detail.   I thought it left a little to be desired on how to figure out which details are worth expanding.  Thankfully I’m opinionated and you’re reading, so here are my thoughts on showing detail.
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