One of the more common “mistakes” of even veteran GMs is made not only before the game begins, but early on in the planning. This “mistake” is the massive investiture of time, creativity and energy into campaign design. While every game needs a solid foundation, detailing continents – even entire worlds that will never see use – is a waste of time, as is stating out every member of the thieves guild, detailing massive pantheons, writing national histories and creating genealogical surveys of kings. Yet we’ve all done this at least once and some of us continue to do...Read More
Author: Matthew J. Neagley
About The Author
First introduced to RPGs through the DnD Red Box Set in 1990, Matt fights an ongoing battle with GMing ADD, leaving his to-do list littered with the broken wrecks of half-formed campaigns, worlds, characters, settings, and home-brewed systems. Luckily, his wife is also a GM, providing him with time on both sides of the screen.
Mind Mapping is an information organizing technique, also called web mapping, concept mapping, spider mapping, or spray mapping. It involves building a fairly free-form web of related concepts with pathways between them. Useful for almost any aspects of GMing, it can be applied to brainstorming ideas, planning campaigns, settings, adventures, characters, locations, and pretty much anything else. The execution is simple. Write down the big idea in the center of a blank sheet of paper, then write down a smaller related idea nearby and draw a line between the two. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Outside the big idea will be...Read More
There are plenty of articles here, there, and everywhere on the care and feeding of a megadungeon. However, for those of you who would like something new, I propose the following: convert your megadungeon to a hex map! Why? Because Hex maps have an entirely NEW set of articles here, there, and everywhere on their care and feeding, so converting from one to the other puts you in a new mindset on running them and gives you a whole new set of tools to do so! Like usual with my articles, I’d like to start this one off with...Read More
Ross Isaacs from SoulJAR Games and I recently had a yelling match over the meme pictured on the left, which I am given to believe originally came from Drinking Quest. By yelling match, I really mean civil discussion, but those aren’t nearly as exciting. While I’m revealing my blatant falsehoods, I might as well admit to one more. That article title is misleading too. You see, I don’t believe in realism in RPGs. I’m pretty sure that no one believes in realism in RPGs. Yes, I know that there are games from a hoary, ill considered era of RPGs...Read More
So one of the perennial questions that plagues my campaign planning is as follows: “How much space does a tribe of goblins need to be self sufficient? Can I place them in this forest and that’s good enough? Is there also room for these gnolls?” Now yes, as GM I can do whatever I like, and NO no player has EVER called me on having unrealistic population densities. This is more of a personal guideline thing: knowing what’s realistic or historical helps me make decisions. So, I recently sat down and did some research. Here’s what I came up...Read More
Almost every gamer has seen Lou Zocchi’s classic pitch for GameScience dice, and if you haven’t yet and have the 20 minutes, click that link. It’s worth a watch. About 4 minutes into the first video, Zocchi references his picture of stacked dice, seen to the right. This picture has long been the major piece of proof that GameScience fans point to as proof of the superiority of their favorite dice. We can date that picture between 1981 and 1991 because the far left stack of dice comes from the Red Box DnD Basic set, only two editions of...Read More
Once again January has snuck up on me and dealt extra backstab damage, so it’s time to pretend that my B-string campaigns are something anyone else would ever actually run and re-“gift” them to you. As usual, I expect the real gift will be the comments section where everyone else piles on with their backburnered campaign ideas. These ideas are great for a new game for the new year, or for spare parts for inclusion into an existing game. Enjoy! Garden Gnomes: Gone are the days where gnomes are able to roam the forests safe from the incursions of...Read More
Here’s a simple random dungeon generation method that uses only a sheet of graph paper, a pencil and the bucket of dice every gamer already owns. Lay out your paper, dump your bucket of dice on it, and remove all the dice that didn’t roll their max, while being careful to move those that did as little as possible. Wherever you had a die roll max, draw a room of that size. Thus rolling a 4 on a d4 results in a room of size 4, and a 20 on a d20 results in a room of size 20....Read More
Here’s a cool tidbit of verified historical fact that you can include in your espionage game, or in an espionage type scene in any other game: During World War 2, Waddington, England’s licensee of Parker Brother’s popular game Monopoly, were approached by Britain’s defense department to produce maps printed on silk, a much better alternative to paper maps, and for which Waddington already had an established, high quality production facility. Not content to stop at just producing maps for British airman who were risking being shot down over enemy territory, they also produced special Monopoly sets for delivery to...Read More
One of the ways to craft good dungeon description is describing to appeal to the senses. Mentioning the sights is common, but including smells, sounds, feels and tastes can greatly contribute to immersion. However, it can be difficult to remember to feature sensory input and to come up with good descriptions on the fly. To that end it can be useful to make a brief set of descriptions, one for each sense that represent common, or typical sensations in a particular themed area in your dungeon or other area. Most areas are more or less homogenous, so this doesn’t...Read More
Recently I had the pleasure of corresponding with the customer service division of Chessex. Their representative, Dustin, had the fastest response time of any customer service team I’ve ever dealt with, taking only ten minutes to respond to my query and responding even more quickly after that. Here’s what Dustin had to say, and I admit it rather took the wind out of my sails: “Chessex was named such because the owner was an old Chess player. He was nationally ranked at one point. Thus Chess-ex or Chessex.” – Dustin, the blazingly fast Chessex rep. Why did this take...Read More
So, this is a completely horrible idea for several reasons, but it’s not without it’s own twisted charm: Why not as a group, decide that everyone should be able to cheat as much as they want, provided that they don’t get caught? Of course, the first question is: “Why in hell would you want to do this?” For the most part, we’ve all played with the guy who constantly cheats and no one ever likes it, so why would I suggest that everyone cheat? The thing is though, that Role Playing Games are based on the concept of the...Read More
Many campaigns feature a small fort outpost or resource gathering town surrounded by largely unexplored wilderness. These small home bases make sense. Few people are willing to relocate into an unknown and likely dangerous area for dubious profits. Only as these outposts prove their value will settlers migrate to them. However, these particular settlements have a wildcard that encourages their growth: player characters and other adventuring types. These wild cards work actively to make the settlements a safer place, and bring much desired sources of economic prosperity. These increases in security and prosperity have a direct effect in the...Read More
Here are links to four rather odd maps: DanMeth’s Fantasy World Map XKCD’s Online Communities map 1 XKCD’s Online Communities map 2 ENWorld’s Interactive RPG Map All of those maps are a little silly, but fun. What I propose is that for a campaign, you use those maps. Of course, you can’t exactly send your PCs to Farmville (unless you’re playing in cyberspace I suppose) so instead, loosely interpret the theme, feel or content of the area in question, and convert it into your game. Here are some examples: Running a horror game set in the Fantasy World map,...Read More
I once watched a documentary on the early days of video games, and the particular part that has stuck with me was two brothers who started their own company right out of high school selling their games on floppies in plastic baggies through mail order fliers. They said (to my recollection): “We slept in shifts. I’d sleep while he programmed and when I woke up, we’d switch places. It was always a treat waking up and discovering what he had done, what new features he had added and how he had made them work.” While the video game industry...Read More
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