Dungeon crawls. Confined spaces for your rpg player characters to adventure through. The concept Brett comes up with doesn’t mean it has to be a dark, dank, underground structure.
Jeff writes in on Monsters as Monsters in ep 302
I haven’t written in before, but I am a follower and Big Fan of Gamers & BS. Full disclaimer, I have been friends with Sean since we were young kids.
Today I am responding to the July 15, 2020 Episode 302 “Monsters as Monsters”. In that episode, Sean expressed his dismay over the 5e nerfing of the Big Baddies in the final confrontation of our 2 ½ year Tomb of Annihilation Campaign. After completing the session and the campaign, we as a group had an After-Action Review of the god, the bad, and the ugly.
First, Sean is being waaay to hard on himself. He succeeded in the goal of gaming in the first place: it was an epic story that entertained his friends for years. Given the members of our group and our collective gaming experience, that is certainly no small feat.
Second, Sean hammers on himself for overestimating the Baddies and underestimating the PCs in the final encounter, as all along the way he had balanced challenges and threats throughout the rest of the 2+ year campaign sessions. We can all second-guess ourselves, but I would like to say that for most of us this was our first deep dip into playing 5E. Damn, I had made mistakes throughout the entire campaign, nerfing myself or overpowering things and getting checked by our DM and players. We all have, because it was also a learning experience for us. Our DM made this journey a fun and memorable one – one of our best (which again, is saying a lot).
Third, I confess that in preparation for our last session, I studied the crap out of my Paladin and mapped out several probable courses of action (as opposed to shooting from the hip like I had previously done). Although the character is special to me – he was actually average and sub-par game mechanically (thank you DM’s death curse!) He was produced using a point buy, was nerfed from the Death Curse reducing his Con from 14 to 10 along w/losing HP, had no magic items until the Warlock gave him the Staff of Striking that we found. However, he was 11th level, gaining the “Improved Smite” feature. Don’t underestimate a Paladin going against fiends and undead – ha ha ha ha! (que Holy Diver by Ronnie James Dio here!)
In conclusion, our ToA Campaign and Sean’s DMing is viewed by his players as a huge success, otherwise Andy and I wouldn’t be interested in playing our surviving PCs someday in future D&D adventures. Yup, mistakes were made, but don’t forget that I was so scared as a player that I was shaking throughout these encounters. For hours. Kudos to that DM.
Jerry G. writes in
Before I launch in, let me first say congratulations for your recent milestone success. 300 episodes is an awesome achievement and I’ve heard most every one so far. Also, it was an honor to have my question opened up with a guest in addition to the advice you both were kind enough to offer. Every last word was taken to heart and I’ve been collecting a great deal of tools and things to help solve the problem of sometimes not feeling prepared for my players’ wanderings.
I have one quick question and a tool to offer as perhaps something for others in the company. Question first…..my players are a mess when it comes to keeping track of the events their characters have been through as well as some of the magic items they’ve been gifted or found. I know you guys have covered this a bit on the show, but how do you both confront that problem in your games? As for the tool, it’s directly related and this is how I confronted it with one of my groups and it wasn’t available for the other at the time. The Tome of Delving. This hardbound book is amazing and solved that for me with one of the groups. A ledger, NPC log, session notes, every number from your character sheet, the whole shebang in one place. http://www.dungeonnotebook.com is the website. The Kickstarter for Pathfinder’s version is underway with very little time left.
Thanks for the answers and the show, Jerry
Rory comments on applying pressure/tension in ep 294
Hello all, sorry it took so long to chime in on this one.
A nice way to quietly but visibly apply the pressure is with visible timekeeping.
I found the concept here at the AngryGM (https://theangrygm.com/hacking-time-in-dnd/).
Scroll down to the “Time Pool” is you want the original article.
I find the “persona” in which he writes his articles a bit much (YMMV) – but I liked this idea.
Summary of how i use it: put a container out on the table.
Tell you players you’re going to check for an encounter 1/hour.
Anytime the characters do anything (search the room, check for secret doors, waste time debating choices in the middle of enemy territory, pick a lock) you add a die to the pool
Each die denotes that 10 minutes have passed (you hand wave this and assume some things take a few more minutes, some less)
Anytime you have 6 dice in the pool (representing an hour) – you pull them ALL out, roll them, and if a one comes up on any die – encounter/event/complication – whatever fits for the story or from your encounter table.
The generic system uses d6s for the pool – but if they are successfully sneaking about, add a d8 or a d10, if they are ransacking rooms and talking loudly as they wander about add a d4. Having a mix works.
There is more detail at the AngryGm site – I like it as it is a simple way to show that “time wasting” activities in the adventure can lead to complications.
You could use the same idea if you need pressure on a day by day basis. If the party is using downtime, and can’t decide what to do – use the time pool & set it to 1 dice per hour, or 1 per day – at a preset period roll the dice – a one comes up and their lives get complicated (maybe the penanggalan attack…)
I know we can just choose to decide when to goose the players, but having the visible mechanic puts the outcome in the hands of the dice gods and the players are less likely to whine that you are being a evil rat bastard GM.
(Which you are, or you would not be applying pressure – but they don’t need to know that do they…)
Nick writes in about doing your own rpg system
Howdy Gents Sorry if this is long winded but bear with me. This is in regards to episode 301 and the creation of your own RPG. While I could go on for pages, here are three important things I have learned, as I am currently in this process…
1- Don’t compete with the market Writing your own system, be it for personal use, or even for marketing, I feel it is important to not try to be “the next titan”. Your likelihood of taking any D&D market share is slim at the very best, so don’t try. Sean mentioned that by doing this for yourself, rather than for mass production “opens possibilities”. I agree, but on a different take: You will be less likely to be overly cautious, allowing your creation to develop more naturally rather than what “makes sense for the average gamer”. This, my friends, is how new ideas HIT the market and DO become titans.
2- Writers point of view When I began my project, I spent over a year writing from the perspective of a GM and was quickly finding myself lost in my own creation. Once I started to write as the player, and what they need to see and hear, it all began to fall into place much faster.
3- Dangers of cannibalization “You enter a room and see two trolls glaring at you”. Tell this to any gamer and they envision eight-foot-tall, spindly armed killing machines that regenerate… but your “troll” is only three feet tall and an annoying scavenger. While cannibalization is certainly easy, your players will have pre-determined ideas of even basic mechanics based on name alone, whereas a proprietary system almost “forces” them to digest what your intent is rather than assuming it.
Keep up the great work you two, there is a great deal to be learned there.
- Congrats to Moe and Sean at Tabletop Bellhop for hitting 100 episodes!
- Ex Novo, is a playable city-building generator to construct fictional villages and towns. This physical game can be played alone or with up to 3 friends. Playtime ranges from 1 to 3 hours. Thanks to Jim for pointing this out.
- Battlelords of the 23rd Century is a science-fiction tabletop roleplaying game where players can assume the role of mercenaries, misfits, soldiers, spies, pirates, and heroes adventuring in a war-torn universe.
- Rory references this link to AngryGM and ‘time pool’