Descriptions on Demand in RPG’s

Descriptions on Demand in tabletop rpg’s. We’re not always comfortable, especially in a new game, when the GM gives us the talking stick and asks us to make something up on the spot about their game world. 

Here’s an article that references this approach:

So… what do we think about this?

From Roger Brasslett


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Random Encounter

Harrigan emails us 

Gaming and BS Overlords,

Two quick things.

  1. On Sean’s Flaming Train Wreck of a Session Zero for His Mothership Game

So on one hand you have Kingdom, Microscope and the like. Highly structured, highly collaborative setting builders that it seems his group dislikes.

On the other, there’s completely freeform setting generation where no one can agree, key elements are forgotten about, and the GM can end up running a setting they don’t actually enjoy.

Idea! Head for the middle ground. Fate and Powered by the Apocalypse games often do this. Provide a bit of structure for setting building, but don’t go overboard. Come up with the key points that matter, then provide the players with a few choices for each of them. It can be really tough to come up with ideas in a vacuum, and even harder to get everyone to agree on them, so have the players choose from a few GM-provided options. Give them a menu to order off of. They can each have a vote, or you can even make it a little set of tables they roll on randomly.

For a science fiction game, set up the choices around FTL communications, FTL travel, aliens, whether artificial gravity is a thing, weapon technology, the kind of ship they have, the kinds of adventures they get up to. All the stuff that matters for the setting and the stories people want to tell.

And by building these lists, the GM can ensure that they either A) stay within their comfort zone and run a setting they like, or B) get to stretch themselves in ways that are new and inspiring.

Basically this: Make random setting tables and have your players roll on or pick from them.

  1. So, COVID-19. Sure has driven a lot of gamers online, me included. I’d be curious to see what BSers think now about gaming virtually. Do those who hated it still hate it? Are those who dove in starting to get tired of the format? Might be a neat subtopic — kind of looking at the state of online gaming now that we are about six months into this thing.

That’s all I got.



Roman emails us about Why Do PC’s Wander Off?

Hey dudes,

I know this email is a little behind. Sorry about that. I got behind and listened out of order. Thanks for taking the survey so I don’t have to. 

I really enjoyed your discussion on wandering PCs, so much so that I wanted to share my thoughts with you jokers! 

I think when the entire party wanders away during a published adventure, it’s often just bad writing. It’s really up to the GM to keep the players engaged in the story enough to wanna stick around. Rumors of powerful magic items that can only be gained by following the prescribed path can be hard to walk away from. 

Conversely, when PCs wander away during a home brew game it just might be because of the home brew. Published adventures provide a wonderful linear quality that, sure, might feel a little railroady sometimes but at least you know what the hell you’re supposed to be doing. Some of the greatest campaigns our group has played have been a mashup of several different published adventure paths, modules, one-shots, and home brew adventures set in a home brew world. The world was always fresh and new but there were almost always specific goals that we understood. If players don’t understand what the hell they’re supposed to do, there ain’t no way the characters are gonna and people will get bored and go look for something to fight. 


Lastly, the really irritating kind of wandering off; PCs wandering off alone. I get it. It’s a role playing game. People want to role play their character. 

“what’s my motivation? Waaaaah”

“I’m just playing my character! Waaaahh”

“But I don’t wanna do that! Waaaah”

What people forget sometimes is that this is also a social game played with other people. Sometimes you need to invent motivation, change your character’s motivations, or just shut the fuck up and go along to get along until you’re totally into it again. Nobody wants to sit and watch you play by yourself with the GM for twenty or thirty minutes while you run off to find yourself. Our group typically makes decisions on a vote and we all go along. We once had a player who was so upset by another character’s actions that he announced he was going to fly home and burn down the party castle. 

Whoa! Time out!

When shit like this happens it’s time to take a break from the session and have a serious talk. That player eventually decided to leave the group and the character went off to live in the forest. 

This is what I imagined happened with Han Solo. His player had to take a leave of absence, his wife had a baby, he sadly moved away, and so Han decided to fly off into the sunset instead of joining the rebellion. A couple years later, “holy shit I’m moving back to town! Is there room in the group for me?”

“Hell yes, there’s room, and we’re about to start another sci-fi adventure with our old characters! This time it’s supposed to be in the forest with a bunch of teddy bear NPCs!”

I’m weird

Game on!

Isaiah commented on Brett taking the D&D survey

Hey all, first time poster. Started listening to the show last year and the way the hosts highlight the community is affirming and welcoming. The kind of openness and genuine interest that Sean and Brett display are the features of the gaming community that keep me enthusiastic about the hobby. Props to everyone on here for being a positive force!

I started playing RPGs in middle school because I always wished I could do more in the video games I played. When my friend across the street showed me his AD&D books my mind was blown. I was no longer confined to what was on an NES cartridge! I think wanting to DM/GM was an extension of that, now I would only be limited by what I could create (and what others would play).

Thinking about the survey and something that came up on the episode, I hope WotC is planning to expand into VTT. I would pay good money for an online platform to run 4th edition D&D. The tight design of the combat was a wonderful way for me to experience that video game-type experience that attracted me as a kid. Maybe if enough people answered positively about 4e on that survey I can play it more!

Dayminkaynin posted this on our forums

Not sure if this is the right place but can yall do an episode on how to GM for $$? How to get that paper! How much to charge. What to expect.

and one on how to run a game on the fly? You sit down as a player and the group makes you GM. You have to use player queues to run the game.

Die Roll

  • Wizards of the Coast to release DM Screen – Wilderness Kit, launching Nov 17, 2020
  • Xcrawl Classics beta-test rules out in time for Bride Cyclops Con
  • Bride of Cyclops Con, Oct 16-18 online 
  • Twitter user @meghanlynnFTW posted a thread about Blades in the Dark. View it on threadreaderapp
  • Coming Sept 7, 2020, Star System: Epic Space Fantasy Roleplaying Supplements by Adamant  Entertainment. Apparently former West End Games editors involved, to include our friend Wayne Humfleet

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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.