RPG Campaign Not The Same Across Groups

This is something I’ve fallen prey to. If you decide to run a campaign for your group that you’ve previously run for another group…be very careful. Your expectations are going to run along with what the previous group did. I can guarantee you the new group will probably go in a direction you never thought possible. It’s usually best to avoid trying to recreate a previous campaign unless you’re prepared for this.”, Tom for our forums.

  • A single session/con game/one-shot of the same game v. an actual campaign re-use
    • One can be easier to work with when changes hit than the other
    • Is there more work/worry with the campaign re-use?
  • Re-use can lead to a desire (advertent or inadvertent) to push the players in a direction – dare I say railroad here?
  • Would it help to use the previous campaign as “background” events for the new campaign?
  • Now might be the time to use all those great ideas you had from the first campaign (during or after the campaign ended) that you never got to try out.


Event registration for Gamehole Con is live. Nov 5-8th, 2020

Con of Champions, May 23-25, online. Proceeds go to support Tabletop Events

Random Encounter

Matt V comments on a few episodes.

This is pretty wordy so feel free to skip if you want.

Been meaning to write in but I’ve been struggling with trying to be productive and learn a couple new skills (because I’ll never have this much free time again), enjoy the family and kids a lot more (because I’ll never have this much free time again), and enjoy leisure time and relax, because you guessed it, I’ll never have this much free time again. It’s actually been very busy despite not working, and I’m putting a lot of stress on myself to not waste this opportunity, which I’m having varying levels of success with!

So going way back to 283: Audio in RPG’s. I just use background music. There’s no way I could personally remember to use that sound here, or start this music there. I have a dozen or so different mixes on youtube I use for it. I think the concept is cool, but I don’t have the RAM for it. I’d have to set up special cues or something, but I’m not sure the payoff is worth all that extra work, and I’d probably lose things elsewhere wasting my bandwidth on trying to remember to read my cues!

285 – Ideal Game Group: Size wise, it’s 4-5 for me. My groups are almost always bigger, but that’s fine because then if one or two don’t show, it’s not a big deal. Of course the players matter too! One of my groups that were, alright, have really started to gel this last couple of weeks. We ran/played a nearly flawless game this last week actually, the kind you look back on and go “damn, I ran a great game and the players played a great game.” So groups can grow into each other over time as well.

286 – Non-combat encounters: Depending on the game, I try and set up all encounters to be solved without combat. I try to set up, just encounters. Let the players figure out how to overcome it. I ran a thieves guild campaign back in 2e, and ever since then I’ve tried to make combat an option. Often the best option, but still. I don’t remember if you mentioned it, but if as a GM you want to promote it, you need to include XP in the reward cycle for overcoming quests without violence. Many games mention this in the rules, but many don’t. I’d say you may even want to award a bigger XP reward because of the sacrifice of loot in the reward cycle. Alternatively, find a way for it to help them, RP wise or even mechanically in the future.

287 – GM’s making player rolls: I personally don’t do it. I don’t roll behind a screen anyway, so it wouldn’t make a difference. I didn’t know how to hide a roll when I started running online, and after that, I just dropped the screen. I used to get really mad about metagaming, but I’ve become totally meh over it the last twenty years. If that’s how they have their fun, I’m not going to impede it, I’ll just fuck with them. I have both player types at my table now, and it works fine. In fact, I’m trying to remove all dice from my hands. I don’t mind being a player where the GM does it however. I have done the “roll me 5 20’s” at the start of the session thing, quite often in the past.

290 – Weapon Damage: I think here, and not just for weapon damage, size, ability to wield, but many things you spoke about such as rations, ammo and encumbrance, does it add to this particular game? The answer IMO is, It Depends! I’m currently running Mutant Year Zero. Things such as food, ammo and encumbrance really add to the game, and you’d lose a ton of the feel without it. You find a heavy artifact that takes up two slots, but you’ll have to drop some food and water to carry it, do you? Red Market is another game that really comes to mind where counting pennies adds to the game. Encumbrance works best in slots IMO, if it’s weight you can waste half a game session shuffling objects around, which I’ve yet to see someone have a good time doing.

In general, I don’t think encumbrance, ability to wield a weapon, etc add to the game. I could see it for OSR games (which isn’t my jam), but in general, things that slow the game down with little gain should be avoided. And you would definitely have to open with it. You can’t add that into a game like D&D half way through! It’d be pretty messed up honestly. And that game tends to be designed with certain assumptions in mind. It’s like when you see people who want to strip magic from it. You are fundamentally changing the foundation of how ALL the mechanics work, because at some level its assumed you have access to magic.

I really like the way games like Cypher system do them, all weapons of the same type have the same stats! Great, so you can use an Axe or a Broadsword without going, damn I’m screwing myself mechanically. I’ve also been playing a little 2d20 recently, and I really like their weapons because of the effects. I don’t think any two weapons are the same, so each weapon actually makes a difference.

Alright guys! Stay safe out there and we’ll talk later. Coming down on 300! That’s pretty epic

Jim Fitzpatrick comments on Weapon Damage on our forums

I agree with Sean. Bookkeeping all that weapon stuff is total wankery.

When you have a player that knows they need 8 feet to use their whip every time they want to make a melee attack, you as the GM have to know the answer to the question “do I have enough space” every single time that player wants to make a melee attack. Hard pass on that wankery.

What I want as a GM is the ability to throw a wrench into a player’s plans when it would add to the tension. Dungeon World calls this idea show a downside to their race, class, or equipment. Maybe the party is in a super-tight hallway and the paladin’s two handed greataxe is a big disadvantage vs. the rogue’s daggers. If the system supports it, then I can use that to ratchet up the tension, like this:

5e: Until you get out of this hallway, you have disadvantage on attacks with your axe. It’s just too constricted in here and you can’t get a good swing.

Fate: This is a super tight hallway (aspect), so I’m going to spend a Fate point as a GM to penalize the paladin’s attack.

Cypher: This is going to be a really hard place for you to use your axe until you get out of the hallway (intrusion), so you’re going to have to figure something else out. If you still try to use it, the difficulty will be two steps harder.

Dungeon World: Player rolls a 6-, and it turns out that they didn’t have enough room to swing that axe and it got stuck in the tunnel wall. How are they going to get it out?

This forces the players to adapt temporarily or suffer the consequences, but worrying about that all the time is not something I would think of as fun. The key word in all of this is temporarily changing the game. I actually think that realizing your character is suboptimal for a task is one of the most fun parts of RPGs because it makes you think outside the box. There’s also this potential for a big feeling of release when you get out of the hallway into a big room full of kobolds and you have all your toys back again.

Really good episode to listen to on an isolated quarantine walk.

Jared Rascher also comments on Weapon Damage on our forums

There are a number of ways to go with making different weapons matter, beyond just determining different damage types.

While sometimes it’s only narrative, PBTA games often have “tags” for weapons that essentially imply when you can and can’t use them, and what the consequences for using them are. For example, “loud” weapons are going to alert any guards if you use them, “messy” weapons will mean you need to spend time cleaning up if you don’t want to leave evidence.

Some tags have more directly mechanical effects, like some games which have a “dangerous” tag for weapons, meaning if you get a 6-, not only do you get the usual hard move for failure, but the weapon also harms someone in range that you didn’t intend to harm.

Several Fate variants will have you assign aspects to weapons, so that if none of your regular aspects make sense to tag, the weapon’s aspect may be something logical to tag so you can spend a Fate point on a roll.

FFG’s Genesys (Star Wars, etc.) and Modiphius’ 2d20 system often have a regular damage rating, but also various traits that can be triggered by spending the currencies in that game (advantage, etc.) to trigger special effects. For example, “Knockdown” might let you spend extra meta-currency to knock an opponent to the ground, so you either get a bonus to hit them, or they have to spend part of their round standing up.

In 13th Age, weapon damage is conditional to the character class. In other words, the damage done by a barbarian using a two-handed weapon is higher than anyone else using a two-handed weapon, and a rogue using a small weapon does more damage than most other classes using small weapons. It doesn’t matter how you describe the weapon . . . a rogue with a dagger or a katar does the same damage, and a barbarian with a maul or a greatsword does the same damage.

In the Wayfarer’s Guide to Eberron, there was a sidebar on Environmental Elements that sadly didn’t get added to Eberron Rising from the Last War. Essentially, it said you can assign environmental descriptions to an area, and if they were cited by a player or the DM and relevant to what was being done, they might add advantage or disadvantage to a roll.

In this case, if the DM said a location has “low ceilings” even if a tactical map is showing a 10-foot wide passage, the DM could say that any two-handed slashing or bludgeoning weapon has disadvantage on attack rolls. I honestly think a situational descriptor like this is more likely to be remembered, and more functional than having rules buried in a rulebook about the space needed to use a weapon.

I’ve said this before, but I don’t think having more granularity to rules actually makes for a more realistic experience. Since you touched on it in the show, I don’t think tracking 250 days of rations, day by day, is actually more realistic, it’s just more bookkeeping. Rations, even long term dry rations, don’t last that long.

It makes more sense to have regular checks for characters getting enough food and supplies from hunting and foraging, and saving “rations” as something you need to have to take a long rest in a dungeon setting. But the whole exploration side of D&D actually needs to be mechanized in a way that makes long-distance travel meaningful, rather than saying that you roll for encounters and weather every day and check off day by day uses of rations, because that’s not really “rules,” that’s accounting.

Rules would be something like group skill checks to forage, look out for bad weather, and scout the path, with penalties being levels of fatigue and days added to the trip.

Adventures in Middle-earth has a good system for this, but it requires you to rework how you use long rests (you can’t long rest while journeying), and focuses on a kind of awe and wonder of nature in its resolution, and for a lot of games, you just want the weight of a long march and the tension of survival, not awe and wonder.

Vmail from Chris Shorb

Phil emails us about Mothership

Hey BSers,

I’ve recently discovered your podcast, it’s fantastic. Like a number of people I find myself with a lot of time on my hands so I’ve been going through your back catalog. I love hearing you talk about Cthulhu and ASSH. I primarily play D&D, so listening to you guys discuss other systems has me jonesing to expand my horizons with my own gaming group. 

Listening to Shawn describe Mothership immediately made me think of Call of Cthulhu’s system with the percentile dice roles. I have some familiarity with CoC so on Shawn’s recommendation I picked up the Mothership players guide, Dead Planet and The Haunting of Ypsilon 14 pdfs. 

I described the premise of the game to my group (Aliens, Event Horizon, The Thing) and they immediately bit on it. We’re all pumped to give it a roll. 

Thanks guys,


Harrigan writes in some time ago about Innovation in RPG’s and Todd Crapper’s comment on ep 281 about Damage in RPG’s

Guys, Have been meaning to write for some time.

Thought about writing to say that most innovation in RPGs will lag until there’s real money to be made in the hobby.

Pondered a missive about writing encounters. About how in my current Black Hack game some players were crapping their pants because I threw a river troll with 7 hit dice at their first level PCs. They presumed they had to fight it… and then discovered he just wanted to talk. To know if they’d seen his troll girlfriend. Of course, when they waved goodbye and wanted to use the bridge he lived under, his toll was to eat one of them. In the end, they cooked him a feast — which we modeled as a multi-part challenge involving persuasion, hunting, gathering, cooking, and food presentation. Was loads of fun, and not a sword was drawn.

But what I want to talk about is this: Episode 284. Todd Crapper opens the can of red wigglers when he writes in about damage and hit points. First off, -loads- of RPGs don’t use hit points, it’s just the D&D branch of our hobby that’s so stuck on them. Second, Brett brought up his distaste for plot armor, and for just following along with a story that’s basically already written. There are indeed games like that, especially indie and story games that specifically state “this is not about whether you survive or succeed, this is about what it costs you, or about how you get there.”

Harrigan’s Take, Part the First

There is a HUUUUGE space in-between a DCC funnel’s random YOU’RE DEAD and YOU’RE DEAD and YOU’RE DEAD mantra and something like Fate, which says, “no PC death unless the player agrees.” There are games in the middle that either use meta-currency or softer death mechanics that keep the “thrill” there without making it a bloodbath. Savage Worlds, Shadow of the Demon Lord, Barbarians of Lemuria — the list goes on.

Harrigan’s Take, Part Deus

I actually like both ends of the spectrum, for different games and experiences. Sometimes I want that ‘on-the-edge’ OSR thrill, but other times I’ve poured a lot into developing a character who has an interesting story I’d like to tell during the game. You don’t need to do one or the other. Play different games. You can have your cake, eat it, and even share with some friends. Provided they sit six feet apart and observe proper social distancing etiquette. Anyway, there’s two cents you don’t need. Best wishes for you both, your families, and all BSers in stressful times. Hang in there, everyone.


Die Roll

  • HOOS-karl points to an article that points out large dragon outlined on the planet Mars.
  • Vece Young is involved with launching Skies of Glass by guys over at Fear the Boot. Sounds like the alpha goes out to their patrons.
  • Some FREE RPG day goodness from Pelgrane Press, asking for you to donate to Doctors Without Borders
  • UK Games Expo, cancelled. Planned for May, postponed until August. Cancelled for 2020.
  • Brett is on Big20 with Vece?

Next Episode

Subscribe on iOS or Android so you don’t miss our next episode when we bring on Jason Hobbs from Hobbs and Friends podcast to discuss Low Fantasy Gaming roleplaying game by Pick Pocket Press.







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.