Welcome to the next chapter of the Friday Knight News, arranged a bit differently.
This week, as you might have guessed from not seeing a post on Friday, the weekly news post was pushed from Friday to Saturday. I took Friday off to enjoy with my family and get my ducks in a row after the wonderful (and fattening) Thanksgiving holiday. Hopefully those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday had a wonderful day!
Since my last Friday links post minus commentary went over like a lead balloon, I’m going to start doing something a little different. The Friday Knight News was already broken into distinct categories. So now when a category reaches critical mass (i.e. 10 posts), I will put out a links post commenting on those 10 items. This will limit the scope a bit, which should in turn reduce the amount of time I need to pull one of these posts together. The benefit will be a more steady stream (potentially once a day or every other day) of smaller posts to keep your reading queues going all week instead of just on a single day.
I have to say I really do appreciate the feedback I received when I asked, so please do me a favor and let me know if you’d like to see more of this type of approach (or less). No matter which way I toss the news your direction I want it to be useful and in easy-to-digest chunks. So let’s see how this goes for a bit.
Today we’re going to look at some gaming links.
(1) Damn it Jim, give me a flowchart!
C. Steven Ross @ Triumph & Despair brought up an interesting point this week. When you think of Dungeons & Dragons, what do you think of? Don’t think too hard. I’ll wait a moment… By chance did it boil down to… I don’t know… Dungeons… and Dragons? Dungeon maps (or regional maps) are ingrained as part of the process for any Dungeon Master worth their salt, right? Dungeon maps aren’t just dungeon maps – they’re flowcharts diagramming decision trees for the players to keep things moving!
But what happens when you shift to a game system that doesn’t require a dungeon map? Ross has been looking at the Edge of the Empire Beta book and found the sample adventure to be lacking some kind of overview to keep things on the rails – and it’s missing! He even offers an example of what the flowchart could look like! Hopefully the folks at Fantasy Flight are keeping an eye out…
(2) What don’t you understand about the word “No”?
Steve Winter in his Howling Tower article @ the Kobold Quarterly blog (we’ll talk about the death of KQ itself in another links post, but the wound is too fresh… ) often brings up intriguing ideas – from keeping gaming fresh and unique to boiling things down for players new or old with an elevator pitch. But this week he raised a point that I feel applies beyond gaming – saying no. (Creighton Broadhurst @ Raging Swan Press also chimed in on this topic.)
Whether you’re a parent, a DM, or a GM, you have to know when to say when. Players will try to get away with murder if you let them. And there’s an art to giving them just enough freedom to really foul things up for themselves without destroying story continuity. But you can’t give them the keys and let them drive your car (or campaign) off a proverbial cliff.
Limits must be set. And flexibility within those limits should be encouraged. However, if you (as a player) ask your GM if you can play an X, use item Y, or suddenly have friends from country Z, and they say “no” – that’s not the end of the world. But it shouldn’t be open for debate or whining for the next session or six.
In a world that somehow has the idea that “Yes” is the answer to every question, it’s refreshing to find someone willing to say “No” every now and then!
(3) You died in the Tomb of Horrors too? Well, let me tell you about how I died in the Temple of Elemental Evil…
We all have our gaming stories. Whether as a player or a GM, the hobby of roleplaying games THRIVES on stories. It’s very meta when you think about it – telling stories about telling stories… And some of those touchstones of our youth (playing 1st edition AD&D, going through a particular module, playing in a particular setting…) enable us to be part of a larger community that is not only worldwide, but crosses the boundaries of time… It’s a social game.
Tim Brannan @ The Other Side this week used this social aspect to talk about how some folks learn how to DM/GM from those early modules like In Search of the Unknown and the Tomb of Horrors… No two GMs will ever run them exactly the same, but again there are shared elements that most GMs will have in common… We may not DM like Gary Gygax, but is that really the point? Not everybody likes those old modules (which tended to be a bit sparse in places). And some don’t like the idea of learning how to DM by running them.
I guess I can see that to a point. There is the risk that anything you homebrew adventure-wise after those modules might mimic their structure and composition. But is that really a bad thing? Many great writers learned to do so by mimicking their favorite authors and have gone on to lead amazingly creative lives. Why would that be any different as a DM?
(4) It’s a Kind of Magic…
Ryan Macklin has been pondering magic lately. And not magic in general, but how it is made manifest in different fantasy game systems. Though the article doesn’t cover every possibility, it’s a great opening shot across the bow that’s inspired many folks to chime in via the comments. I’d encourage you to pop in and leave your own comments!
Have you been looking for some new horror to spring on your players? Check these out…
- Perhaps the Ghardachin from Nicholas Cloister @ RPG Creatures will haunt your nightmares with its steely knives. (If you want more from Nicholas, check out his Monsters by Email service!)
- Or maybe you’d rather have an intelligent, law-abiding, giant slug-like creature such as the Ormyrr as drawn by Joe Sparrow @ Dungeons and Drawings?
- And if those aren’t strange enough, perhaps the Needlefolk are up your alley (drawn by Bianca Martinez de Rituerto @ Dungeons and Drawings)? These sentient plants are solitary unless they’re hunting their hated enemy – the elves!
(6) I’m the Dungeon Master? What the heck do I do now!?!
C @ Hack & Slash has put together a great guide for new DMs that covers the basics for pulling together a successful gaming session. I wish I had something this simple to start with when I started DMing three decades ago! Great source for any GM toolbox.
(7) Giving Thanks
Many of us in the gaming blogosphere were giving thanks for the good things in our lives. Krys @ Dungeon Mastering gave thanks that D&D could encourage one of his students to read and write. Sometimes all it takes is one little window to open a mind and thankfully D&D was the window! I know how important D&D was to my education when I discovered it in the 7th grade. And I’m sharing that with my daughters, who are already reading like gangbusters!
(8) Making a PC Unforgettable
Quick show of (virtual) hands… How many of you have played characters during your RPG tenure that you remember amazing little details about? Why do those characters stand out? And why can’t we do that with every PC we play?
Mike Bourke @ Campaign Mastery has some ideas on that front. Not a few either, 34 of them. And there are some dang good tips in there from Mike and others who answered the call when asked to capture that lightning in a bottle. Great stuff!
Do you play in the world of Harn? Do you know about Harn? It’s one of the most amazingly detailed worlds you’ll ever find online and it’s still growing. Rob Conley @ Bat in the Attic has some links to new releases at Lythia.com, the home of Harn, that could be useful to GMs/DMs playing in any fantasy world or system. The “Venarive Weather Generator” sounds like a great way to rain on your PCs parades…
Really if you’re looking for inspiration, Harn is an amazing place to visit from time to time!
(10) My kingdom for a map!
Maps are an indispensable resource for your games. I am always looking for more – whether to use them as is, steal ideas from them, or just to sit and stare at as inspiration. And if you’re looking for maps, you can always count on Dyson Logos to have a few cool ones. Recently he posted a “Regional Map of Lake Velth” that offers some mountains, forests, coastline, a river, and a lake to explore. Add a few encounters and you’re on your way.
If that one doesn’t do it for you, you can always look at his map of Sabre Lake. Even more landscapey goodness to explore!
I’ll close out this first “Links” post with a +1 for the day… If you’re not familiar with the Shadows of Esteren game, might I recommend that you check out their website – Esteren.org – and then hop over to their current Kickstarter project for the Prologue book of their series. There’s only a couple of days left to get into this low-magic, horror, medieval, creepy, and wonderful world. I have the first book from their original Kickstarter and it’s gorgeous. (Eventually I hope to get a chance to write one or more review posts!)
The Kickstarter just hit $50,000 and now they’ve unlocked another book – Book 2: Travels - documenting important places in the world as well as more scenarios, monsters, and NPCs. There’s a ton of care and feeding that goes into any well-designed fantasy world and this one has blown me away so far in terms of the breadth and scope of what they’re covering.
That’s all for now, but I hope to have another of these up in a couple of days. Please let me now if you like it and if I should continue in this vein or try and find a way to return to the original “grocery list” format with commentary.