Producers of Dungeons and Dragons, Wizards of the Coast, put out a survey to better understand tabletop gamers and their preferences. Sean thinks it would be interesting to have Brett take the survey. If you have not taken the rpg survey, we encourage you to do so, but feel free to answer the questions out loud with us.


  • Virtual Gamehole Con event registration and badges available now.
  • Brett will be running a BSer game of Avalon with OSRIC rules.
  • Heroes Save Villages, charity game on August 29th at 4pm cdt on Hobbs665 Twitch channel,staring Jason Hobbs (Hobbs and Friends), Kevin Madison (Dungeon Musings Youtube), Steve Grodzicki (Low Fantasy Gaming) and Sean. 
  • Happy ‘Alive Day!’

Random Encounter

John Steve comments on Why PC’s Wander Off

Well, although it can be disrupting, if the PC wandering off is doing so in the “spirit of the game”, meaning it fits the overall narrative of what the group is dealing with, I can work with that. If they’re being a jerk because they’ve gotten bored with the current direction…not so much. Playing an RPG is a group effort. Everyone pitches in to add to the fun. Walking away with no real intent or an intent that is counter to the groups goals is a selfish act and should be treated accordingly.

Gabe comments on RPG Campaign Talk

This is for Tom. Perhaps a brief explanation of my emerging Swords & Wizardry campaign will be of some use to him.

First, I drew a map. I didn’t “construct” anything. The most care I took was that there were at least a few crazy or evocative features, such as the Thirsty Maw and the Purple Obelisk.

I decided the starting location would be in Barton, a totally random town name. I began to wonder what kind of a “town” it was. It thus became “Bard Town.” I won’t weary you with too much world building, but, in short, it became a center for the arts with the Bard as its primary deity.

For the first session, the PCs were confronted with two overt adventure possibilities. It sounds like you have your beginning covered, but you’ll see that the beginning pattern is used again later in campaign development, only in a larger scale.

My PCs are mostly all Level 4 now. They got there by resurrecting the Bard in time for an invasion by “Monogodites.” I began to realize that my players and myself are sick of the sights in Barton, so the PCs need a reason to leave. These invading Monogodites might burn Barton to the water (though the PCs hope to stop this), possibly making a change easier.

I’ve begun to prepare whatever the next stage will be. Brett said to use PC backstories, and this is what I’ve begun. Most notably, Brother Stone, our Monk, who wears a fragment of the Purple Obelisk around his neck, suddenly has become aware that the shard is glowing and emitting a high, soft whistle. He has decided to travel to the Purple Obelisk for answers.

If I need other enticements for the PCs, I have two more bits of “news” ready for two of them. Brother Sanguine, head of PC Johan’s Druid Order, has started murdering the heads of other Orders. “There can be only one.” Johan is from the Red Hills.

Roly the PC Kender will learn that a “ruler” in Kenderhome has embraced the Monogodite religion and is removing the fingers of thieves.

A lot of this has emerged by instinct, but if I’m looking for a structure to this, here’s what I see.

Draw a map. Make it big, but don’t worry about detailing it.

Start small. Provide two or three adventure seeds with small or medium-sized dungeons at the end of each or all of them. Watch what the PCs do.

Share the world map with the players. Allow them to choose locations as their homelands (if they wish) and ideally add features or qualities to them. These will be leveraged for personal PC quests and adventures later on.

Try to be aware of when the players, PCs or Referee have outgrown a location. I recently found myself shortening and skipping parts of my latest dungeon. My players started talking about exploring the world.

Then give the PCs two or three personal reasons to leave.

Beholdershorde comments on RPG Campaign Talk

I have had players not give or develop back stories before. It’s just wasn’t their thing. In some of these cases I gave them, people or places to care about and because the players didn’t worry about this stuff they would most often grab onto the hook and gobble up the bait.

Stuff like “that building that burned was the orphanage your best friend grew up in during your childhood years.

Now, all the kids are safe but what will happen to them. “

“Your estranged sister is missing, all you have is an odd note.”

Often players that have trouble coming up with stuff just need somewhere to start. With just a little fuel these players often help develop great stories.

I most often have my players give me 3 NPCs at session zero. Friends/ family/ enemies even frienimies, with just a short how are they connected with these people. The last campaign two players used the term “a dark stranger”, boom same guy. Now the two PCs are connected.

Not all players care about this stuff and just want to play.

Some players never give me anything in writing, so I take notes on small things they verbalize.

Some players give a 10 page account of the PCs life up to the time the adventure begins. For these players I ask them to point out three important things for me to use. This is easier than me as DM trying to guess what events hold special meaning to the player.

I then try and work these items into the campaign as appropriate. Depending on who needs shine time and what the party is doing.

Even if the game is past session zero you can get some of the items from the players to work in.

One other thing I like to do is have players make NPCs they don’t know. Bar keeps, shop owners city watch. I usually ask for one or two of these. The players get a kick out of me using them and it can save me from coming up with random NPCs on the spot.

This is from anonymous on RPG Campaign Talk

I was just listening to the RPG Campaign Talk episode–I have a few minutes left, but I had to take a break and wanted to share some reactions. Excellent episode, by the way, as always. Anyhow, here’s something that occurred to me. In my recent experience, GM’s may need to be far more clear and forceful about campaign expectations. I’m a GM, so I’m advising myself as well. Real example: I’m a player in a campaign that is just about to kick off. One of the players said that he wanted to create a fringe character with definite comedic elements. The GM tried, kindly, to say “well, you can do that, but in this setting, you’d be rather out of place…” and that did not slow the player at all. So, we could have a human ranger, a half-elf fighter trying to hide his elven nature, a dwarf paladin, and a warforged bard who claims that he’s part dragonborn and uses banjos as weapons, and, yeah, he wears a sombrero because he has dreams of our dimension’s two-bit taco joints. Even before we roll dice in play, the campaign’s tone has changed to be more cartoony. One character can take the game from Twilight Zone to Futurama: both good shows, but with different moods. (I realize this could happen in any game system, but I think 5e attracts it, for some reason. It’s okay if you think otherwise!) And here’s the rub, even though the GM tried to set expectations, the player steamrolled.

I can imagine Brett saying “well, there will be in-game consequences.” And I certainly hope so. But, 1) as a player, I’m already now in a game I’m less thrilled about, and 2) the same players who can be tone deaf to expectations are often tone deaf to the aforementioned consequences. “You just don’t like my character” or “Why is the GM picking on me?” are things I can imagine those kinds of players saying in response. In short, if you can’t read the room now, you may have trouble reading the room after your character dies.

For me, the best option is to be bold about limits up front. Not “you can make whatever you like, but it will be tough on you!” Instead, just “No, only humans” or “Sorry, those Unearthed Arcana options are too far out.” There should be nothing wrong with saying “This is the kind of game we’re playing.” If the player doesn’t like the setup, it’s okay to skip that campaign or one-shot. If you don’t want to play in goal, but you want to use your hands all the time, why are you on my soccer team?

I do not believe that being careful at setup is removing creativity or player agency–within the game, you can attempt anything. But that doesn’t mean you can come to the table with whatever concept appeals. Maybe in some games, sure. But if the GM is hoping for a specific tone/type of adventure, and offers that to the players, I think they should comply. However, the GM may have to be very firm–more so than he or she may feel comfortable with. Is it a little dictatorial? Maybe. But if it is for a good reason, one that is well-explained and agreed upon by the table–it’s fine. Says me, anyway.

Be safe, fellows. Thank you for all your efforts and creativity. You rock. Or yacht rock. Whatever floats your boat!

So… been a long quiet time. I made a recent return and caught the discussion of Red Markets, 2d20 and MYZ on episode 297 BS’ers Are Smarter Than BS.

All three of these games are pretty remarkable. I’ve run a bunch of 2d20 games – from Conan to John Carter of Mars to the Dune playtests. I recommend it highly.

The real reason for my note, besides saying, “Hi, missed y’all.” is to say, Apocalypse World offers some great tools for building campaigns off of what is happening. I highly recommend giving AW 2nd edition a read just for the Master of Ceremonies’ guidance on Threats, Fronts and Clocks.

Good to hear your voices again,


PS: Ahh shit, I suppose you two and most of the BSers are smart enough to pick up on this without me saying it outright – the ideas from Apocalypse World are easily portable to any other system.

Be well.

Mike H. follows up on the person that only likes prepublished adventures

Hey @sean and @Fafhrd, thank you for the comments on the show. I asked the game group to listen to your comments and especially Tom, the one in question. I guess I was wrong about him, yes he does prefer the pre-published adventures but he would play a home brew if it has the right hook. I guess the last time he played in 2000 he played in a home brew game and the GM was unprepared and the game was a disaster and that is his reasoning. It makes sense to me, it ruined his gaming experience. I do appreciate all of the recommendations on pre-published adventures. Carry on!


Die Roll

  • Spotlight on Rifts, by Meaghan Colleran article on BoL
  • Level Up Advanced 5th Edition, announced by ENWorld. Article on BoL. Level Up is the working title for a standalone ‘advanced 5E’ backwards compatible tabletop RPG coming to Kickstarter in 2021 from EN Publishing. A crunchier, more flexible version of the 5E ruleset which you know and love. If you love 5E but would like a little more depth to the ruleset, Level Up is the game for you!
  • Twilight 2000 KS is LIVE!

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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.