Game master screens, we talked about them in the past. Do we use a GM screen or do we not? But times have changed as we start to do more gaming via online – Zoom, Discord, Skype…has the purpose of the GM screen changed with the times?

Random Encounter

Voicemail from Chris Shorb on GM as Player

Voicemail from GM Cojo on losing in rpg’s

Stephen the Dragonspawn emails us on cursed items

A few ideas came to me as I listened. When you mentioned the “common” -2 sword that you cannot get rid of, to me this does sound rather boring and uninspired. When I was young and new to the hobby, I never gave it much thought nor did I add these kinds of items in treasure hoards as I found them more of a hassle and gave a reason for players to bitch (or rather another reason, for some players). As I acquired more XP and levelled up as a gamer, I asked myself why would a Mage go to the trouble of creating a -2 Sword or a Backbiter spear?  

I always preferred thinking that many such cursed items came from a failure to craft a beneficial item, not all, but many of them may originate that way. If they are intentionally crafted, it may be by gods or otherworldly beings (for reasons known only to them). No matter the way they came into being, I believe all magical items should have some history or interesting origin, even if it’s only a +1 dagger.

And as you mentioned, one way to make them more interesting is for the item to grant a benefit that does still make it worthwhile to own. “Sure, this sword is -2 but it’s still a magical blade and counts when fighting incorporeal beings, werewolves, etc.” One idea I had while listening was to make all magical items have a curse or a drawback as part of the rule of magic (all power comes at a cost and you can’t get something for nothing). A +2 sword that makes the wielded more susceptible to insults and wants to duel anyone they think just slighted them for example. 

Another thought is that a cursed item such as our infamous -2 sword (in a d20 system), becomes less of a true curse and more of a minor inconvenience at higher levels. Even if the fighter never gets rid of the blade, by the time he’s level 10+, a -2 is no longer as great a penalty as when he was 2nd level. But if the sword reduces the total to hit and damage bonus by half, then the curse is more important and impactful despite the fighter’s level. So being able to scale the curse, modify it or tailor it to the character can be a great way for it to have impact on the game and the story (In a system without levels, a -2 may still be a hindrance no matter the XP gained by that character).

In an example for a Narrative dice system (such as Genesys or Star Wars), an item that always upgrades the skill check to a red die can be just as devastating to a new PC as to one with over 150 earned XP. If that red die comes up with a Despair symbol, then the GM has license to interject all kinds of complications into the storyline.

I’m also curious about this Owlbear Rodeo VTT as I’m always on the lookout for a simple way to game online if possible. Thank you for the shout out for this and thank you to those who came up with it. 

As always, keep up the good work, stay safe and healthy.

Forest emails us from a past episode.

I was listening to an old episode where you talked about material components. I know you guys have discussed a few times before, especially the high PITA (Pain in the Ass) factor of keeping track of them.

Brett mentioned reading an old dragon article as a kid that suggested spellcasters get a bonus on fire-based spells for using red dragon blood as a spell component or something like that.

That’s what I do in my campaigns and what my current DM does in a campaign I’m playing in (AD&D 2nd edition). It’s cool to be able to boost spells occasionally, and it gives our party-member with the anatomy and zoology non-weapon proficiencies, the ability to shine from time to time while dismembering and dissecting defeated opponents. Some cool things that have come from this:

Body parts of a hell-clam (a creature that basically acts as a portal to gate in demons) to enhance summoning spells.

A central gland from a floating brain creature we defeated that allows one casting of a divination spell at 2X the caster’s level after eating it.

A pair of eyeballs from a particularly horrific creature that give opponents a -4 to fear-based spell saves when the caster uses them. The DM hasn’t said how these are to be used, exactly, but I would think that eating the eyeballs in front of the opponent while casting the spell should do the trick!

Anyway, lots of cool options to give temporary boosts to spellcasters, at least. And if you want to allow the smorgasbord of available options to go to other classes you can do things like: Drink this demon ichor for a + 3 on your next acid save (but drop your charisma by 1 point until that effect takes place). You could think of a hundred ways to leverage these sorts of things. These would work especially great in a low-magic game, where you don’t want to just go about having strange women lying in ponds distributing magic swords (that’s no basis for a system of government).

The monster manual is your oyster, so to speak!



Some guy named Joe comments on our forums under The Role of the GM

How DARE you call out one of your players (unless it’s Jeff) on your show! I log on to listen to my favorite podcast and I’m insulted right off the bat. DISGUSTING! I hereby call for a boycott of the Gaming and BS Podcast and will no longer play with the likes of Sean. Brett, are you looking for an online/Zoom player?

Nah…just fucking with you, but you get -1 Inspiration.

In my defense, I put my character together a couple months ago while we were still running Mothership. Although I included quite a few details, my primary purpose was to develop a background that would fit the criteria set by the DM…plus, I don’t even recall what I did last week, so…

…and I can fix this! Chrisian is as common as Jeff, John or Joe in Cyre. Nathanial’s father disappeared in 984YK, and the suspected location of his disappearance wasn’t remotely close to where we were travelling. Nathanial still doesn’t even know where he is, or how he got here. Why would he automatically assume that the Chrisian that was mentioned was his long ‘dead’ father? If he knew that he was in a demiplane that can show up wherever/whenever…:man_shrugging:

Nathanial will continue to refute the knowledge of a Chrisian. If/when he begins to suspect that his father is the person in question, he will be in a state of denial. “No, that’s impossible! My father is DEAD!” “What kind of game are you playing?!”

Keep rolling out the episodes. I’ll keep listening.

Die Roll

Next Episode

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.