Episode 296 it was all about the resources in tabletop rpg’s. We talked about the idea of tracking gear and food and such as a possible way to help make certain adventures/stories fun.  Now let’s see if we can come up with some methods for tracking this stuff so it’s not too much work.

Random Encounter

Chris Schorb calls in

Michael Dinos writes in as he yells at his podcatcher

FREE LEAGUE!!!!!! Alien, Mutant Year Zero, Tales From the Loop, Forbidden Lands, and several others are published by Swedish publisher FREE LEAGUE, not Modiphius, although Modiphius does do retail distribution. I’ve been a huge fan of FL products for many years now, since Mutant Year Zero was translated to English. Their products are absolutely fantastic, and everyone should have a couple of FL products on their bookshelves (and no I do not work for them) It was annoying me all episode in 297, that’s all! Overall ya’ll do a great job, but it’s Free League 😉 Congrats on hitting 298 episodes before the world ends! Gameable moment: https://nypost.com/2020/06/13/reading-of-mayan-calendar-suggests-end-of-the-world-is-next-week/ After the new age starts are you starting at episode 1 or episode 299?

Edwin writes in about focus – back to Old School DM and DM Cojo

I teach engineering.  Over the past few years, I have had the great fortune to co-teach with an excellent English professor.  One of the more important ideas he brought to me is that at any one time a student can either focus on how s/he is writing or what s/he is writing.  If we want students to write about difficult subjects, the students need an opportunity to think about the subject deeply without worrying about writing.  Bullet points, outlines, thought diagrams etc. all serve this purpose.  Conversely, when we want students to write well, it is most effective if they can write about something they know well.  This brings about the old assignment about how to construct a sandwich.  Only after a student has done both separately should we ask the student do them at the same time.

Recently I had the revelation that I’ve come to think of myself as a teacher rather than an engineer.  I spend more time thinking about how to teach than how to engineer.  Most of the topics I teach I know inside and out (although I too occasionally have to reread the rules).  This allows me to focus on how best to present them.

A game master has to think simultaneously about how to present the game (narrative, beats, pulling focus, etc.) and the game itself (mechanics).  We can’t learn both at the same time any more than a student can learn to write while learning about deconstructionist theology. 

Brett was prepping for a CoC game with his kids and focused on the rules.  Brett doesn’t have to think about timing, voices, etc., for a game with his kids, at least not for THIS game with his kids.  He’s focused on the rules and will use his existing narrative abilities without trying to improve them. 

Sean has been talking about his Mothership game.  His focus has been on applying pressure—how, when, how much.  He’s focusing on how to present the game and not on increasing his mastery of the game. 

The takeaway is that I believe we need to go back and forth if we want to improve, and that we probably need to spend more time on the one we don’t like because we’re probably already pretty good at the one we do.  Sometimes we focus on running a game using the chase mechanics and don’t worry about whether the pacing is good.  Other sessions we focus on cranking up the tension and let the rules slide.  After doing each separately enough times, we can run a high-tension chase using the rules.

Kisses (Keep it simple, stupid),


Todd Crapper of Broken Ruler Games writes in on applying pressure 

How do, lads? 

Just finished listening to the 2-parter on Applying Pressure and a thought occurred during the second episode. A successful staple of horror films has been hinting at a possible source of danger, tension, or heightened drama and then moving on with the story until BAM!! It hits at the worst possible time. For example, while exploring a spooky old house, one of the characters steps on a creaking stair or it cracks. Nothing bad happens at that moment and we move on… until that same person runs back down the stairs to escape the serial killer and BAM!! Their foot falls right through and they’re stuck. 

One of the issues with relying on dice and mechanics for tension is that it’s almost always instantaneous in the game and expected the minute that d20 rolls a 1. Whereas turning some of those failed rolls into Bad Stuff Happens points that are piled at the GM’s side may help offer up more timely tension when you want it rather than when you’re told it must happen now. Plus it takes away from some of the “swing and miss” bullshit that can actually steal tension. Now a failed roll becomes a wait and see moment that could blow up in the PCs’ faces at any moment. Like now. No, wait….. nnnnnnnow! Maybe something handy for your Mothership game, Sean, though it’s not something I’ve yet to try myself. 

Anywho, insert standard compliments to your work on the show here and star wipe. Me out. (P.S. If the person who reads this doesn’t actually shout BAM!!, may you feel my persistent consternation at such a missed opportunity. Now cue the train sound effect to play me out and remember… drinking while you send a message to one of your favourite podcasts is how you make friends. Or enemies. 

Either way, 

Todd out.)

Charlie emails us

Back in November 2019, I wrote an email to the show asking for tips for helping friends get into RPGs and I’ve been meaning to provide a follow-up email.  I have a friend who likes gaming, but he had some apprehension about playing a tabletop RPG like 5th edition.  I ran a one-shot for him and some other friends, which ended up lasting two sessions.  The first session was a little rough, but he got into his character by the second session.  By the end of the second session, he was having enough fun to commit to having me run a longer campaign for the group.  I’ve been running a campaign based upon the Ghosts of Saltmarsh book and everybody is really enjoying it.

Strangely enough, my friend is very comfortable using Roll20 (even more so than I am).  I think he likes the ease of just clicking a button and having the dice roll for him and add the appropriate modifiers.  He’s an IT guy by profession and he can program macros and do all sorts of things that I can’t.  This got me thinking how the pandemic could possibly usher in a wave of new players to the hobby via playing on virtual tabletops.  While I prefer playing in-person, I have no objections to any arrangement that gets new players into gaming and enjoying themselves.  Listening to your podcast helps me become a better game master and I am very grateful for that.

Now to address the elephant in the room……the status of Jeff’s Paladin.  I’m one of Jeff’s co-workers and Jeff texts me after gaming sessions to report his Paladin is still alive.  This leads me to two obvious conclusions.  Either A.) Jeff is too talented of a role player and Sean is unable to kill him due to Jeff’s superior skills or B.) Sean has grown so attached to Jeff’s Paladin that he is unwilling to kill something he loves.


John writes in about skill piling

Hey fellers, Regarding skill piling, it’s not an issue in the game systems I tend to use (Genesys and Cortex, some PbtA) because every time players pick up the dice, there’s a chance Something Bad could happen. If the players want to risk Something Bad, they’re always free to pick up the dice and roll. And if there’s no real chance of Something Bad, I don’t make them roll; I just give them what they’re trying to get.



Angela writes in about one campaign being different from another

Hey Brett and Sean!

I’m back! Getting myself caught up on episodes and I wanted to comment on running the same campaign for different groups. 

I do agree that running a con game or one shot for multiple groups is different, but it’s good practice for GMs to do. It teaches you which hooks work the way you expect and the way they don’t along with how different players handle different things. 

As you said, though, with a Campaign, the further you get into it the more it’s going to diverge from what happened with the previous group. Your prepared material is going to become less and less useful if you don’t have a way to account for group B going in a completely different direction than group A.

I recently revived a short campaign in exactly this way. Was a Night’s Black Agents campaign I did for some online friends a few years ago. When the pandemic hit and we had to switch to gaming online, my friend that had been GMing had to bow out because he worked for the county Health Department and wasn’t going to have the bandwidth to prep for his game anymore. So, I dug this game out of the archive and offered to run it. 

First couple of sessions went about the same between the groups. Sent in to check on a group of agents that failed to check in, both groups sussed out clues, reacted about the same to the video footage of a monster murdering people, and tracked down a kidnapped agent to a warehouse. Warehouse fight was aaaalmost the same, but things started to diverge. By the time they got to the third session, both groups were at the same location (Vienna State Opera House) but things went wildly different. Fourth session wasn’t even recognizable between the two games. 

It was a good gap filler for my gaming group, but I’m not sure I will try and revive a campaign like that again.


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About the Author
The 'S' of Gaming and BS podcast. Besides producing and hosting the show, Sean enjoys long walks on the beach, running rpg's, and killing player...characters.