Using prepublished adventures are handy, but may not facilitate the character development you seek. But you can inject homebrew elements into your prepublished module and make it your own.
DM Cojo promotes Goodman Games Elemental Evil
Mark Dawson emails us, die roll for social conflict.
It’s Mark “Official BS Archivist” Dawson. Yes, I’ve remained a listener all these years, despite my lack of direct interaction. Since the last time you heard from me (five years ago), I’ve moved halfway across the country, had a complete change in career, and basically rebooted my entire life. Throughout all the upheaval and change in my life, you guys have remained a constant. As a native Midwesterner now living in the Southwest, listening to you guys BS about games is like a little taste of home, so thank you for continuing this podcast.
Brett, I know you’ve had a lot going on with the recent move and surgery, but have you made any progress on creating your own RPG system from scratch (Ep. 301)? I’d love to hear some of your game ideas as they evolve, please share your process with the BS’ers. Who knows? We might be able to help out.
Sean, nice work on the solo episode (Ep. 323) when Brett was unavailable. I’m sure it was daunting and took a bit of editing to have a one-person conversation, but you pulled it off nicely. Also, how soon are you planning to run Forbidden Lands after your recent conversation with Phil Vecchione (BBS, Ep. 21)?
On to my main topic: Do games need a dice mechanic to resolve social conflict?
RPG’s evolved from tabletop war games, but we’ve come a long way in nearly 50 years of this hobby. I’m really happy the consumers and publishers of these RPG’s have diversified and broadened their sense of inclusion over the years, but so many of the wargaming roots remain intact which can drive me nuts! In D&D 5e we have skills like “Deception, Intimidation, and Persuasion,” but what if the PC’s want to parley or negotiate with the enemy and the DM is hellbent on the encounter resolving with combat? Murder hobo hack n’ slash style play was fun when I was 12, but I’m in my 40’s now and want a little more story and character development from my RPG’s. “Why not roleplay through the scenario instead of just rolling initiative,” you say? Well, maybe the GM is adversarial and the roleplay would be irrelevant? Perhaps the players prefer to narrate their character’s actions because they’re uncomfortable with improvised dialogue or speaking in the first person? I’m also curious about this topic purely from a game design aspect. So, have you played a game or are you aware of a system that has a defined mechanic to resolve social encounters with stats or dice? If not, could you see a value in such a system?
Good gaming to all,
PS it would be interesting if you guys had James Introcaso on as a guest to talk about his new projects with Matt Colville (item from “Die Roll” Ep. 327).
Joshua220 comments on Sloooooow Burn vs HOT! Start
Hope you guys haven’t recorded yet because I want to make sure you touch on what Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master says about setting an opening scene. Creating a Strong Start, outlined in chapter 4 consists of four bullet points, suggested to be used for both campaign and session starters:
What’s Happening? (Framing the scene)
What’s the Point? (Hook to draw players in)
Where’s the Action?
When in doubt, start with combat.
Think about it this way, how many of your favorite movies or books start with a group of characters in the stereotypical Inn drinking beer? Now how many books and movies start with a murder or a high-octane car chase?
Some fiction starts slow in order to build the mundane before dropping the main character into the fantastic, but in my opinion players have enough of the mundane in their daily lives.
Which of these opening scenes would pull you in more, as a player:
A group of adventurers is in a bar when they are told of disappearances happening a town over
A group of adventurers is attending the annual summer festival when suddenly a woman bursts through the crowd shrieking “They took my husband!”
Both options tell essentially the same story, but one of them encourages the characters to spring to action and solve an immediate problem.
I don’t think I’ve ever used a “slow burn” to open a campaign, since it’s the first chance I’m going to get to sell them on the story. If they’re already bored at the outset, why are they going to show up to the next session?
For a combat heavy system, you may not necessarily need to open with combat, but those players better damn well be rolling those dice after ten minutes or else they’re going to be scrolling through their phones looking for something more interesting. Even for a game where combat is rare and dangerous, immediately throwing an intriguing mystery at them will make them instantly engaged.
Maybe I have the wrong idea of what a “slow start” entails, so I’m curious to hear your arguments for it.
Ray Otus on the forums about Customizing Prepublished Scenarios
I always cut out repetitive encounters. There are some modules that are filled with endless rooms that are empty and/or filled with the same kinds of fights. Sometimes these come from random encounter tables that are either too short or have entries that all feel the same. Figure 2-3 encounters per session. Decided about how many sessions your players will enjoy in this space. Then find the best stuff and cut the rest. In other words, let’s say you are in Ghosts of Saltmarsh and are infiltrating the Sahuagin base. You want to spend two sessions max on it. That means you have about 6 encounters. (Give yourself 8 or 9 knowing they will bypass some.) Cut everything but those 9, literally bypass rooms, truncate hallways, or as players move through just tell them fast-forward the boring bits with stuff like “you pass three empty rooms”. This makes every adventure better.
Eric Salzwedel comments on Customizing Prepublished Scenarios
I normally don’t run published material and when I have in the past I tried too hard to stick to the script and it was clunky. I am running the module from the Humblewood box set and I am definitely adding my own flare for the NPCs, skipping encounters that seem monotonous, and making sure encounters happen that are cool.
In the beginning I felt like there needed to be a stronger connection to the village and the PCs. They were sort of outsiders and I wanted to add hooks to why they would care about the village. I had each character receive an item from a villager before they departed. It was a spontaneous decision and I really liked how it worked out. My favorite one was probably the hand drawing from a child given to a PC of that child’s father who may or may not be captured by bandits.
The other example was there was this cool big toad but it would only appear if the player characters failed on 3 dex saves when trying to capture frogs for a hedge witch (She is literally a hedgehog and a witch). I thought it was a cool encounter because when the giant toad appears there is a cocoughiny of frog noises. I wanted this encounter to happen and I didn’t think it was likely they would fail 3 dex saves. So I just decided the giant toad will show up once they have filled their bag with frogs. It ended up being a fun encounter because one character was swallowed by the toad.
Lesson learned for me is I can totally use published stuff but I need to run it how it makes sense to me and fits my story telling.
Look forward to the cast!
- Call of Cthulhu is big in Japan, article on Dicebreaker. Thanks Bachman75 on the forums
- What We Give to Alien Gods kickstarter for Mothership and the like. 14k of $750 raised. Ends march 1, 2021
- Kobold Press’s Vault of Magic kickstarter, funded, for 5e. Ends March 17, 2021
- Christopher Grey’s Temple and Tombs kickstarter. Built for Year Zero Engine. Half way there, $3900 of $6900. Ends March 15th, 2021
- Winter hat is now available with GBS logo!
- Try other rpg’s, meet other people: https://gamingandbs.com/games