The Wild Hunt – Other Worlds

When I sat down to read “The Wild Hunt” by Samantha Marie Ketcham Seguinte, I was thinking about doing a twitter read-through of it, as I typically do with shorter games or even longer ones I want to highlight. But something about it defied the type of writing I usually do for my read-throughs. Typically, I try to break a game into it’s component parts, circling certain segments and trying to create some narrative on how they build into each-other. But for “The Wild Hunt”, such an approach seemed inappropriate. It’s not as if there’s nothing to highlight, far from it. But each piece links together very intricately. It seemed like to focus on any tree would be to miss the proverbial forest.

That said, I am in murky waters here, as I’m really going to extrapolate my own meaning from the game, rather than trying to discover the mechanics that underpin it in order to create what I think was the designers’ goal. So be aware, in trying to understand the forest that is “The Wild Hunt”, I’m looking through my own set of eyes.

Continue reading

Prepping the Toolkit for Blades

In re-reading this Alexandrian article, I was struck by the idea of the “toolkit.” In the context of the article, they are designed as the tools that the villain uses to thwart the goals of the party. These are the sources of conflict, and, by my estimation, roughly analogous to the sort of go-to obstacles a villain (and therefore a GM) can throw at the players. The article divides the tools into toolkits into categories of personnel, equipment, physical locations, and information.

Continue reading

Stop Fridging the Background

CW: References to fictional violence towards women

I played in a game recently that got me thinking about character backgrounds, in particular the ways GMs use them after the players have created them. As any GM will tell you, a well-written backstory can be a real boon to the GM and the story, as it allows them to “tie in” elements of their story with the PC’s backstory, thus fostering engagement and a feeling of mutual ownership over the narrative.

However, it isn’t always sunshine and roses. Today I want to talk about where a GM’s mining of a player’s backstory can go wrong.

Continue reading

Planning a Score for “Blades in the Dark”

Disclaimer: In this article, I’ll be presenting some advice on how I think more planning-focused GMs can plan out a score in John Harper’s Blades in the Dark. Please note that I don’t think that this is the ONLY way someone could plan a score, or that planning is even necessary for more improvisational GMs.

Still with me? Cool. In Blades in the Dark, the structure of the book and it’s advice indicates that improvisation with the foundation of an expansive, detailed world is the go-to default for running the adventures that make up the game’s session-to-session experience, termed by Blades as “scores.” However, not all GM’s (myself included) do particularly well with on-the-spot improvisation, and while improvisation-from-source-material is one of the best ways to do improvised adventures, it isn’t strictly speaking the best or only way to run adventures for every GM.

Therefore, in this article, I’ll be presenting a methodology I’ve used to pre-plan scores that mimic the “sample” score provided in Blades in the Dark in style, so that they can be run from a written plan by less improvisational GMs.

Continue reading

The Advantages of Advantage

Every time I go back to reading The Angry GM, that sonavabitch makes me want to try running a game again. Not just any game, but good ol’ DnD. What can I say? Either he’s a persuasive writer or I’m just a gullible sod.

In either case, reading the latest batch of rants and articles got me thinking about player agency. After looking up some old stuff of bankuei’s on fictional positioning, and I’m thinking the two go hand-in-hand with 5e’s Advantage and Disadvantage system.

A brief overview: In 5e, players can sometimes either get “advantage” or “disadvantage” when performing an action. If they have an advantage, they roll two d20’s and take the higher number, if they have a disadvantage they roll two and take the lower result. As part of 5e’s unifying superstructure, there’s a lot of conditions, statuses, and spells that grant advantage and disadvantage in specific situations, but there is also a surprising amount of leeway given to the GM.

Continue reading

The Needs of the Many…

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about goals and motivations as they apply to tabletop RPG’s, specifically how and why they motivate the story of a game.

From reading bankuei, I’ve reached the (somewhat tentative) conclusion that an essential component of Narratavism is that the player character’s goals drive the story. If one PC wants to find their long-lost sister, well, then, that’s what their story is going to be about. If another PC wants to start their own religion, then their portion of the game is going to be about that.

You can probably already see the problem. What happens when players goals aren’t compatible? Or if they don’t want to work together? Well, narrativism doesn’t particularly care, I think. A narrativist game is perfectly happy to let each player pursue their own independent agenda, maybe sometimes working together, sometimes working against. You can see this in the design of narrativist games like “Burning Wheel” or “Dogs in the Vineyard” whose mechanics emphasize one-on-one conflicts and confrontations, rather than group v. group encounters.

Continue reading

How to Make Your First Game Not Suck

Top image taken from “Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set”

I’m beginning to notice that basically every nerd has the same basic story about the first time they tried a roleplaying game. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Someone bought the books, they all rolled up characters, and then… well, then they just kind of screwed around for a bit. No epic adventure, no grand quest.

It seems like in the mid 2000’s, there was an epidemic of this going around. I think it’s gotten a bit better since then, and I have a couple ideas why. Let’s break this down a bit.

Continue reading