Being a better ttrpg player, it doesn’t have to always fall to the game master to produce a great gaming experience.
Todd Broken Ruler Games comments on modifying encounters on the fly
As a general rule, I never adjust a combat encounter’s stats on the fly, even if what was supposed to be a tough encounter becomes a cake walk. If that does happen, I try to find a way to complicate the scene by calling in reinforcements or using a fireball spell to set the room on fire and ramp up the tension. But almost never by adjusting the details already prepped and recorded.
Back in my 3e homebrew campaign, I wanted to pit the PCs against a massive horde of flesh-eating zombies. The idea was that they had to survive the night as these zombies would turn to dust at dawn. It was designed to force the PCs out of their standard fight-in-the-open approach and add some mobility to the encounter as they had to move from one secure shelter to another to outlast the night.
Uh, yeah, that’s not what happened. The sorcerer had just learned a polymorph spell that would allow him and two others to turn into a creature they encountered before. So in their waning hours before the horde attacked, they chose a large insectoid creature called a “roo-ken-eer” from the previous adventure and decided to hold out for as long as possible in (sigh) a big fight out in the open. Well, that choice of monster just happened to provide the PCs will the PERFECT immunities and damage reduction that allowed them to survive hundreds of zombies attacking as a horde AND it also gave them the ideal attack that would allow them to sweep through the horde. Once I realized they had (by sheer luck) picked the perfect defence and therefore nerfed all my plans… I gave it to them. They planned, took what they knew about the situation, and made all the right choices to win the battle. In that moment, they deserved the complete victory.
…in the next adventure, they had to go up against a pit fiend. They were something like a CR10 party or something. I needed to take something from them and wanted to make sure it would get done. So I took the main boss for the whole campaign and brought him in for an early appearance. No deaths, no injuries, just some dislocated jaws as they saw a pit fiend take the sorcerer’s younger brother into a portal to Hell. They were not wearing brown pants that day, let me tell ya.
So maybe I do adjust things… but later. Once they’ve proven themselves capable of kicking ass in a tough encounter before the final act of the game, standard pacing and plot devices tell us to bring them down a notch as their nemesis tries to quell this growing threat. You blow up the Death Star, the Empire’s gonna crush you with giant metal camels.
And this DM don’t fuck around when you wipe out his zombie horde.
Edwin comments on streaming and recording your play
Greetings all. I had a few thoughts on streaming and recording. I’ve been recording with Skype of Cthulhu for five or six years. With over 700 episodes and 10 years, it’s one of the granddaddies. It started, I’ve heard, as a means of playing. The recording and publishing is mostly gravy for us, but does have some effects on the game. I think it pushes us to show up every week, which is great. We also are more likely to fill silences and to read handouts out loud. That said, I would say this is one of the most “actual” actual plays out there. Unedited and with very little concession to the existence of an audience. We prefer to have people play even if they have a crappy mic and a weak internet connection. This brings me to one of my main thoughts about actual plays. I find a big range between an actual actual play and whatever critical role is. No knocks about either—depending on my mood and goal for listening, I enjoy both.
SoC is really a recording of game sessions with, as I said, very little concession to the listening public. No sound effects, no editing, no listener interaction etc. We try to stop recording at the end before talking dirt about the scenarios or engaging in out-of-game banter, and in fact one thing recording does do for us is keep us slightly more focused on the game than we otherwise might be.
Many of my favorite “actual” plays, on the other hand, are highly produced, and those that are streamed live often also have some level of audience interaction and even participation. These things make for a very different thing—more of a play than a game (although always some of both).
I have recorded some games “for the record”—and even used an automated transcription service on the recording so it would be searchable. It was great after a PC made a brash promise to a fey creature to have it on record in all its literal trouble. It’s also good for playtests. This seems different from publishing though, since there’s no external audience.
I think I had some other thoughts while listening to the episode, but it was hot and my brain melted.
Happy gaming y’all!
Ray Otus comments on streaming and recording play
I listened to podcasts waaaay back in the mid-2000s. I remember the horrible audio of Geekspeak and Dragon’s Lair, among others. Later, but still early gamer podcasting greats like Godzilla Gaming, Durham 3, Sons of Kryos, and Have Games Will Travel didn’t always have amazing audio quality either. Back then I was so hungry for the content that the quality of the audio wasn’t a huge issue for me.
Mostly, I’m still that way. I can deal with a weak mic or p-puffs more than I can a million “like” or “ummm” fillers or lip smacking. I guess I still am totally fine with guerrilla podcasting. BUT, there is less excuse for it today. Advice on how to achieve solid audio quality can be had with a minimum of searching or simply by contacting someone who has a level of quality you want to emulate. The tech is relatively cheap, and really solid sound can be achieved with a smart phone in a closet full of sound-absorbing clothes. Bad sound these days is one of two things – an insult to the listener because the podcaster just doesn’t care OR a kind of punk podcasting manifesto because the podcaster doesn’t think ANYONE should care about form over content. I kind of respect that, but I also acknowledge that some people have far more discerning ears than I do.
You both made some good points about how streaming can affect your game. My favorite saying along these lines is that role-playing games are like skinny dipping: strip down and get in or go away – looky-lookies not welcome. It’s a big step to turn your game into a broadcasted event and everyone at the table had better be on board. Fundamentally, you are doing two things now, playing an RPG and engaging in entertaining others. The latter can end up trumping the other and will certainly transform the way you play.