Being a better player: Rejoice in what we have #DND #RPG #Pathfinder

My first role playing book was the AD&D Player’s Handbook. It opened up a whole new world to me. And my life was never the same after that. And that was the edition I used until 2nd Edition came out. And then I used that system happily until I moved on to other games. I enjoyed plenty of other games. I adored Shadowrun 2nd Ed., loved GURPS and several of its world books, thought Cyberpunk and World of Darkness were interesting. I followed those up with Deadlands, 7th Sea, and Savage Worlds. And now my games of choice are D&D 5E and Pathfinder. I tried some others in there as well but not for any real extended period of time. My point is that I have tried and played a lot of games out there.

I think that I can safely say though that in playing these new (or new to me) games one thing really stands out to me. And it makes us all better players as a result. These games are all much better balanced than they once were.

Here is what I mean by being balanced. We used to joke about AD&D wizards, how incredibly fragile and almost useless they were. And how the crazy requirements of certain classes like the Paladin made them almost impossible to play honestly. Or the silly class paths you had to take to play things like Bards. And while I adored Shadowrun, in almost every style of campaign, there were only 2 styles of play that people used, all other archetypes were ignored.

I will have to subtract GURPS and Savage Worlds from this discussion because for the most part those systems do not have classes or archetypes for people to follow. Although GURPS especially favored a particular game style and was not very scalable for long term or high power games.

But the one thing I really like about D&D 5E and Pathfinder is that you can really play whatever you want, and not feel like you were dead meat out of the box or had to imitate Blanche duBois.

There are those who do not like certain classes. Or campaigns where certain races and classes are not available. But if you want to create a Gnome monk, or a Tiefling Paladin, or an Elven Barbarian you could. And that character would not be more or less effective in practical terms than any other choices you could make. Any of those would be perfectly playable in the current systems. You are no longer limited by the system, or the rules, only by the campaign style and the GM world restrictions.

What does this mean if you want to be a better player? Well, it means that your life is much easier. When my sons Gnome wizard died on Saturday he was able to construct a very effective Elven rogue assassin. And when he realized that in retrospect that he would prefer a different character type he was able to make a Dragonborn barbarian who will be able to really complement what is already in the party. You could not have done that with D&D 2E, or Shadowrun 2E. Because your effective character options were so limited in those games and editions.

I really think that we are in a bit of a golden age for players of role playing games. If you read my other articles, follow my directions, then your options are almost limitless. And that makes it much easier to be a better player. Because you are now only governed by your own skills and knowledge.

It occurs to me that I have no idea if people read this, or even care about them. So I’m going to go ahead and add a poll to this post. Answer it or not if you want to.



The blank stares give me an answer #Roleplaying #DnD @AngryGM

I am back to struggling with the Savage Avatar setting. But this time it is less about the setting, and more about the players. I just think that a Savage Worlds (or really any similar type of system) game is beyond most of this group.

I am talking about the concept of thinking your character is more than just a collection of weapons and spells. I think that Jimmy gets that, and does try to think beyond that, both with his actions and what he does. But I really think the rest of the group fails to really grasp what is involved.

When I gave two of them a ride on Sunday after the game I mentioned that it was time for them to start thinking about what they want their character to be. Are they big, or small? Bloodthirsty or pacifist? Greedy or spendthrift? Just little thoughts like that, that are natural to me, but I want them to think more in those terms.

And the blank stares I got when I asked them that kind of gave me an answer. I am going to try and get more definitive answers through other avenues. But I think it is possible they are not quite ready to think beyond the basics. Which is fine, they are 13 & 14 year old boys after all.

And then I read another fascinating article from the @AngryGM. And it got me thinking about D&D again. And more specifically it got me thinking that I might do a better job with D&D a second time around. I will be honest, when I was running the game starting last fall, with their own characters, I made some errors. I didn’t plumb the depths of the system properly. And then by making the jump to Pathfinder I may have compounded that initial error.

And if I rush them into another, somewhat more sophisticated, system I could be doing irrevocable harm. I could very easily crush their interest in role playing by pushing them. Again, I think Jimmy could handle it, but just because he is my son does not mean he should get special treatment or final decision making authority.

I will wait for the feedback from the others before I make a final irrevocable decision. But I also think that they do need something new, I think the current campaign has pretty much run it’s course. And it is time for something new.

Look, I never said it was going to be easy #BoysCampaign #SavageWorlds #Roleplaying

The next time I write a column where I mention creating a world from scratch, or running a game in a well known TV setting, please comment along the lines of ‘Stop you fool!’ Because I am having a devil of a time figuring out this Savage Avatar game for the boys.

The world is too well known

I think that the show Avatar: the last airbender was really cool. I really enjoyed it. And I thought it was a cool world. But when I start to really dig into the setting, to the point where the boys are, with their having watched the shows, I am becoming aware of some limitations.

It is like trying to set a game in Middle Earth, you know who the Big Players are, and where the Big Events are happening. So if you try to set a game there you have to avoid running into those Events or Players. Which is a big limitation.

Even bigger (or smaller) is that the world of the show is actually geographically quite small. But if you just say the game is taking place elsewhere you run into problems with the actual history, history that is covered in the shows. So I cannot just claim that there is a different continent elsewhere on the planet without contradicting all of that back story.

I am coming up with something that I can work into the origins, without contradicting the story line. And then come up with a campaign for them that digs into that. But,

I hate coming up with entire worlds from scratch

In a sense I have been running the boys in a world of my own creation for quite some time. But, it has been a more or less traditional Fantasy setting. With Orcs, Elves, Dragons, Undead etc. Which really makes it easy for me at least.

But for this game I cannot just fall back on those tropes. It is one thing to say that there is a continent on the other side of the world and come up with a story for why there are humans there. But if I just say that there are knights, dwarves, goblins and ogres to fight there, the boys might rebel.

I want to preserve at least some of the flavor of this setting for them, so they can fit in more comfortably. Which becomes a bit of a problem for me.

I am slowly coming up with a solution to these problems in my mind. But it sure as hell is not as easy as if they were just playing another D&D game. I just have to remember a few simple rules:

  1. They know even less than I do, so as long as I keep the broad strokes consistent I am okay.
  2. Stay small at first, if they are starting in a small coastal village, and only know what is in that area, who cares what is happening in the rest of the new land?
  3. Make it interesting and who cares where they are playing? If I can get their attention and hold it, they will stop caring about the bigger picture.

I am committed now, time to start coming up with ideas #Roleplaying

If there was one thing that was clear from Friday’s game, it is that the boys are excited about playing in a Savage Worlds game set in the world of Avatar: the Last Airbender. Which means I am committed to doing that, and coming up with some adventures for them. And I admit to being a little at a loss and a touch out of my element.

I can come up with Fantasy story lines no problem, pretty much all day long. It comes with spending my time reading those kinds of novels pretty much exclusively for 40 some odd years. I could come up with a Western game pretty easily as well, if I had to, because I spent a lot of time watching Westerns. And Organized Crime/Spy movie stuff, also in my wheel house. But this is really a unique genre for me, it’s a challenge.

I’ve already made the decision to cop out and send them off the main continental area, put them on a ship exploring the other side of the world. That will offset the fact that the main area is already pretty well settled, and not really a place for the kind of adventuring this group is ready for. If it was adult players, players suited for scheming, planning, spy type of adventure it would be a different thing, but the boys are not ready for that.

So it will be a journey of discovery. A quest to find a New World, if there is one. And what will they find there. Since I am using Savage Worlds I do have to be a little careful about the threat level, as it is reasonably possible for a generic bad guy to take out a hero in this system.

All of this is a little scary and intimidating. The boys are a tough group, because they are not the types to appreciate subtlety. But it is also freeing, because I can almost start from scratch, it is really my own sandbox to work with. Whatever I want to throw in there I can within reason. But enough rambling, time to get to work.

Well this could be a big challenge, for everyone #Roleplaying

Now that I have laid out the final stages of the boys D&D/Pathfinder campaign I have begun to think about what to do next. I talked some with Jimmy this weekend and asked him what he would like to do next? Another Fantasy game, or a more Science fiction Military style game? He suggested that what would be fun would be a game in the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender. And at least one of the other boys likes that, and I think the others would probably agree. Of course this would be a big challenge.

This would challenge me to best capture that world. I know Fantasy worlds, and I know Star Wars. But, while I did watch a fair amount of Avatar when it was out I did not exactly absorb every piece of the world. So I would have some research and catching up to do on my own to try to create a campaign that would match the flavor of the world.

But it does present me with the opportunity to show them 2 things. First, that a Fantasy Role playing game is not always about layering up the heavy armor, strapping on the +12 hackmaster sword and wand of infinite fiery destruction and killing monsters. Because the world of Avatar was not one filled with monsters and easy opponents. Second, I can use a different system (I am thinking of Savage Worlds) as it would work better for that world.

So it will be a challenge for me, but one I am willing to undertake.

But it will also be a challenge for them. They will have to learn to role play without being able to fall back on the attack every stranger mode. They will be forced to interact more as their characters. And that is another reason I want to use the different system, because I think it will be easier to do that, to role play, when their character sheets have unique edges and hindrances that they can hang their role playing on.

All in all, yes it will be a challenge. But it is a challenge that I think we can all look forward to undertaking.

Finding the Fun: Savage Worlds Deluxe | The Mad Adventurers Society

Finding the Fun: Savage Worlds Deluxe | The Mad Adventurers Society.

A pretty excellent unbiased review of one of my favorite systems. I admit I was a little leery when Savage Worlds was first introduced, being a huge GURPS fan. But it won me over.

I even intend to use this system for the Boys next game system I teach them. When I run them through a Sci Fi/military style game.

Time to plan the end game #Roleplaying

I can see the handwriting on the wall for the boys game. Not that the boys don’t want to play any more, far from it. Instead I can see an end point for the present campaign and characters. Which is okay, and normal really. But it means it is time for me to bring things to a decent conclusion.

A couple of weeks ago, when we were driving up to Denver, Jimmy pointed out that the boys are just not scared of anything any more. And sure I can always come up with stuff that is tougher, as one of the Denver players says: ‘never get in an arms race with the DM’. But that is beginning to lost it’s appeal to me. I have the next couple of sessions planned out, and they should be a challenge for the boys, but that constant cycle of them getting tougher, than I have to create something tougher, etc. ad nauseum is boring.

I would rather come up with a story that wraps up the story lines I have gradually built up. And then give them a final challenge, one that should exhaust them (and maybe even kill one or 2.) Then move them on to another campaign or game. So I have begun to piece together the pieces for that final challenge. I want to make it suitably epic and fun for everyone. And make some sense in terms of the overall story.

After that I will give them a choice. Choice one is we stay in a Fantasy setting, but will return to 5E, and use some of the more complex story pieces in that setting. I began to sketch out the outlines of a setting yesterday. I want it to be a non-traditional fantasy setting, but still fun for them.

Choice two will be a sci-fi military type scenario. I plan to use the Savage Worlds rules, and my old Warzone miniatures. And much of it will be them serving as a special ops type unit and operating like that for a while. The system should allow them to be properly heroic, but closer to their beloved Call of Duty type scenarios.

But that is for the future. Right now, I have at least 2 pieces already laid out for one scenario. And then the end game will begin (but without too much foreshadowing, I want them to play like normal instead of throwing themselves into the mouth of the dragon since there will be no tomorrow.) I plan to play all that out over at least 3 sessions. Should be interesting, and fun for all.