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Gnome Rodeo: Link Me Amadeus

Okay, I write one little bastardized lyric for a title, and suddenly I’m picturing eighties music videos with gnomes in them…

Gnome Rodeos are our regular link roundups. Provided everyone doesn’t simultaneously stop talking about GMing for a week, you should see one most Fridays.

GMing Regulars

Dungeon Mastering [1]: You should give your GM one of these [2]. (I got this one [3] a few years back, and it rocked.)

Musings of the Chatty DM [4]: Chatty reviews the D&D 4e DMG [5]. (I still don’t see what’s supposed to be wrong with the skill challenge system — what am I missing? It seems fine to me.) He also delves deeper into fridge logic [6] — mentioned in last week’s rodeo, also from Chatty’s blog — and its application to gaming.

Roleplaying Tips [7]: The flagship article in issue #405 is all about fantasy Greek and Roman settings [8], but the bit I liked most was the section on ways GMs can use body language [9] at the table.

GMing All Over the Place

Amagi Games [10]: This relatively new site is an instant classic for GMs, and has an interesting take on copyrighting their stuff: they don’t. They offer up free RPGs and better still, gambits — snap-on game mechanics and other widgets suitable for use with many RPGs, also free. For example: countdown stacks [11] for keeping the pressure on, or temptation dice [12], which sound awesome. This is one to watch.

ars ludi [13]: Ben creates, defines and implements the concept of a game plugin [14] for RPGs — a modular game element you can use in virtually any RPG. I’m not sure if there’s any connection to Amagi Games’s gambits, mentioned above, but they’re essentially the same concept. For example: Instant Rivalries [15]. It is my deeply held personal belief that Ben Robbins in fact pees awesomeness.

Encounter-a-Day [16]: Okay, now I want to run a battle staged on floating lava islands [17].

I Waste The Buddha With My Crossbow [18]: The good doctor discusses using spontaneous, one-line premises to come up with adventure ideas [19]. It reminds me of his excellent adventure funnel [20]. He also mentioned the Risus Companion as being packed with great GMing advice, but there’s no preview of the PDF online. What makes it so awesome?

Pen and Paper Portal [21]: PnPP’s Coop is a video game journalist who covers major RPG releases, and also offers up a neat resource for D&D 4e GMs: premade campaigns [22]. Broken down by tier, these will run June 12th through July 12th — check out Two Kobold Tribes [23] for a taste.

Robin Laws’s LiveJournal [24]: Robin makes a good point about combat and pacing: “Every second that passes when no one is acting is deadly to combat pacing. [25] He mentions it in the context of fluid action order in D&D 4e, but it’s relevant to nearly every RPG.


Critical Hits [26]: CH wants to give one of you money for telling them your funny gaming quotes [27]. $20 smackers on Amazon sound good? Check it out.

So…Gnome Rodeos. I enjoy doing them, but what do you think of them? By their nature they’re not really comment magnets, but I’d love to hear whether you love/hate them and what you might like to see me do differently.

9 Comments (Open | Close)

9 Comments To "Gnome Rodeo: Link Me Amadeus"

#1 Comment By ChattyDM On June 20, 2008 @ 5:02 am

I don’t think that Skill challenges are broken… It’s just that I needed to read the section 3 or 4 times to ‘get’ it.

However, reading Keith Baker’s take on it makes it a lot clearer!

Nothing wrong with skill challenge, except that the recipe is badly delivered IMHO.

#2 Comment By PaPeRoTTo On June 20, 2008 @ 5:54 am

I don’t like the skill challenge system… 😛

aaaaaaanyway.. i like Gnome Rodeos as they come.. sprinkles of sites and just an introduction to the features they have in 🙂

keep it up as it is!! 😀

#3 Comment By lebkin On June 20, 2008 @ 6:59 am

I think the main complaint I have heard with the Skill Challenge system is that challenges are way too hard. I have heard as bad as 10% average success rate. WotC simply didn’t work the math out properly. A good breakdown of the problem, and more importantly, a good solution can be found at EN World by Stalker0 here: [28]

#4 Comment By Bartoneus On June 20, 2008 @ 7:21 am

Lebkin: Again, Keith Baker’s write up about skill challenges addresses the difficulty complaint in a really good way. Presented as flat rolling vs. DC for a number of successes the math seems too difficult, but when you look at it in the context of an adventure and with roleplaying included, the modifiers to the math start to make a lot more sense.

#5 Comment By ChattyDM On June 20, 2008 @ 9:24 am

I would say that Stalker’s system is perfect for people who want a rock solid algorithm which players can trust. I’d prefer it in an environment where trust in the DM has not been established or is challenged (Martin, I’d love to see you write on Trust).

I prefer Baker’s take (which I think hits closer to the original intent) of having 1 skill roller, up to 4 helpers and a possible +2 or more bonus for awesome roleplaying. In that case the math work too. However that necessitates a certain level of trust between DM and players.

Both are valid, I prefer the apparent simplicity of the second.

#6 Comment By flatvurm On June 20, 2008 @ 1:22 pm

Because you asked…I enjoy the rodeos. 🙂

#7 Comment By lebkin On June 20, 2008 @ 1:42 pm

My problem with Baker’s take is that I think it relies too heavily on the Aid Another action. This kind of system balancing is highly dependent on the size of the party. Combat encounters scale for the size of the party; the skill challenges do not. A two character party, for example, does not get that nice +8 bonus; it gets only a +2, and thus makes the challenge much harder.

And that is assuming the aid another action is a valid application in that particular skill check. Some are not, as noted by Baker about chases scenes. Thus that entire balance method is thrown out the window.

Also odd as this may sound, I do not like the idea of giving skill bonuses based on role-playing as a means of balancing a challenge. The challenge should be balanced mechanically without any DM fiat additions. Any DM bonus should be a reward, not a necessity for good party success.

To me, it seems that taking Baker’s approach is much like how we did it in past: by feel and gut. Personally, I want a robust, mathematically sound system, just like we have in combat. That is what appeals to me about Stalker’s system. It has a very sound algorithm at its core on which to build encounters, just like the combat encounter system.

Wow. That was a really long side-topic post. Sorry about that. Back to your regularly schedule commenting.

#8 Comment By trollsmyth On June 20, 2008 @ 4:40 pm

I love the rodeos. But hey, I’m from Texas, so what do you expect?

But seriously, they’re a great overview of the past week’s GMing goodness, and I always find something I’ve missed. And they throw hits at folks who do neat stuff, which I hope encourages them to do even more neat stuff.

– Brian

#9 Comment By Martin Ralya On June 23, 2008 @ 11:30 am

Re: skill challenges, I guess I’ve only looked at one analysis of the number’s (Stalker0’s, I believe — but a different EN World thread than the one linked above), and I didn’t find it compelling. I’ll have to go dig it up again.

It looks like my group will be playing Shadowfell in a couple of weeks, so presumably I’ll get a chance to see how skill challenges actually play out.

Thanks for the feedback on the rodeo format — I’m glad it’s working so far. 🙂

(And flatvurm, it’s great to see you here!)