Saturday, February 10, 2018

Episode 5: Chapter 3 and Side Treks - Running Storm King's Thunder

In episode 5, I recap the blog posts on Sandboxes, Railroads, and Social Contracts. I also dive a little deeper on Chapter 3 and side treks to give your players options during the more sandbox portion of the adventure. Spoilers start after minute 30.


(3:24) Sandboxes and Railroads
(10:30) Adding player agency to published adventures like Storm King’s Thunder
(18:00) Adjusting published material to the actions of the players
(21:00) The Social Contract and what it means for your table
(26:45) How Session 0 defines the Social Contract
(30:10) SKT - How to get the most out of Chapter 3
(31:00) Strategies to tease plot threads and side quests
    (33:25) Grouping encounters by their regional locations or their quests trees
    (35:00) Example - tying together regional plot hooks around the Evermoors
    (41:45) Grouping Chapter 3 encounters by their quest trees
    (43:00) Grouping Chapter 3 encounters make them the “best” with rumors
(44:55) Using rumors to get the PCs onto a plot thread
(48:05) Using shelved “random” encounters or side treks to improv as needed
(51:30) Random encounters don’t have to be about combat
(54:00) Examples of encounters to drop in
    (54:20) Womford Bat and Death in the Cornfields (http://www.dmsguild.com/product/180108/Death-in-the-Cornfields)
    (55:50) Dungeon #144 and the Evermoors
    (56:25) Fire Giant Dig Site
    (57:40) Pick out Barbarians to highlight
    (59:12) Drow encounter in the Dwarf fortress
    (1:01:30) Adventurer's League "Bad Fruul" adventures
    (1:02:45) Blagthokus the Cloud Giant (HotDQ)
    (1:03:45) Cloud Giant's Bargain
    (1:05:35) Frost Giants raiding the coastal towns

Thursday, February 8, 2018

GM 101: What is the social contract?

D&D characters arguing
So in my recent posts about “Railroading” and “Session 0”, I’ve talked a lot about expectations at the table, and how it is important for everyone to want the same (or at least similar) things out of the game to make sure everyone is having fun.  Implied in that statement is an idea that has gone around gaming circles for many years -- the “social contract”.

What is the social contract?


The idea of the social contract is that there is an unspoken agreement at the table that everyone is there to have fun and no one player or GM should act in such a way as to harm the fun of another player.

Basically, as Wil Wheaton put it, “Don’t be a d!ck.”

That’s the summary version, but there is a little more elaboration related to RPGs. We all play D&D (and similar games) as an escape from the day to day stresses. We have enough problems and personal conflict in the real world to have to come to a game only to face the same personal conflicts or stresses we’d like to put aside on a Friday or Saturday night. If it’s not fun, people will quit the game.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

GM 101: Railroads and Sandboxes and Agency, Oh My!

A lot (and I mean a LOT) of digital ink has been spilled over the topics of railroading, sandbox play, and player agency in games like Dungeons & Dragons… but often a new GM comes into these conversations not fully understanding what that actually means for their own game.  Well, I’m going to try to break it down for someone who is newer the the GM chair.

First, we need to define terms in the conversation, because depending upon your point of view, the terms themselves may already loaded with bias.

Player Agency - This is the ability for a player to have meaning choices in the game world. This is portrayed as freedom from pre-destination. Freedom from an "illusion of choice" where a particular path is forced upon the players by will of the game master. In other words, if the player selects path A, it will be different than if they had selected path B. The two paths can end up in the same place, but they must be meaningfully different (I’ll try to explain that more in a bit).

Railroad - This term is generally used for when the GM is guiding the players along a path upon which the players cannot diverge (i.e. - you can’t turn a train off its tracks. The players lose the ability to affect the plot (and therefore, player agency) , because a pre-defined course or story has already been set. This is usually used as a pejorative. However, there are times where rails are useful as a GM tool (I’ll also get to that in a minute), as long at the players understand and agree why they are there.

Sandbox - This term is used when the GM presents a “open world” scenario where the players have the most freedom to move in any direction, follow any adventure hook presented, or abandon said hooks at any time for something else that captures their interest. There are few constraints to the players actions. Sandbox games supposedly offer the most player agency, but even a sandbox game can turn into a railroad, or can suffer from other issues that remove player agency.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Episode 4: Goldenfields and Triboar - Running Storm King's Thunder

In Episode 4, I get around to the Goldenfield and Triboar encounters. There's a lot to unpack in this episode. No major spoilers until after minute 20. Topics listed below the video.



(2:00) Streamlining the session to not waste gaming time
(9:02) Legacy Weapons (https://ragingowlbear.blogspot.com/2018/01/legacy-weapons-in-dnd-5e.html)
(16:25) Tips for running large combats scenarios
(22:40) Using the area maps as a pseudo battle map

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Episode 3: Player Visuals, Maps and Handouts - Running Storm King's Thunder

Apologies for the rough end edit. The video was interrupted by my feverish 3 year old, so I had dad duties. I will get back to Goldenfields and Triboar in the next video, which I will try to release ahead of schedule.



In this episode:
(3:06) Finding miniatures in the clearance toy aisle or online
 Diana figure (http://amzn.to/2nagUh1)
 Aquaman figure (http://amzn.to/2E5XMss)
(8:22) Cheap gridded wrapping paper
(9:07) Mapping large encounter areas like Grudd Haug
(13:15) Todd McFarlane figures from Ebay
(18:03) Player visuals / NPC portraits
(20:40) Pathfinder NPC face cards (http://amzn.to/2Dvl1v3)
(26:45) Player maps
(33:00) Don't hide your town's locations/features from the players

Monday, January 22, 2018

D&D/OSR: Legacy Weapons in D&D

Illustration by Daniel Ljunggren
(c) Wizards of the Coast
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with magic items. As a DM, I’ve always wanted magic items to be a rare and cherished item in a character’s inventory. The challenge is that, as characters level up, that +1 Longsword becomes less useful and will be discarded for the next powerful “plus” that comes along, no matter how fancy a name you might give it.

Because I do not want to have to churn new magic items through the party every few levels (supposed to be rare, right?), I’ve had to come up with ways to keep existing items in the player’s inventory fresh. In this regard, I’ve stolen come up with ideas to improve magic weapon: Enchantment (rune/gem) Slots and Legacy Weapons.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Episode 2: Session 0, Miniatures, Terrain - Running Storm King's Thunder

In Episode 2, I speak more generally about improving your game in the first half hour (no spoilers). Storm King Thunder specific tips come in the second half hour (mild spoilers).



(1:40) Importance of Session 0 (follow-up on the blog post from the other day).
(15:00) Using Assault of the Giants board game miniatures (https://youtu.be/g9-aQspYtJs)
(20:12) Simple ways to use crafting to improve encounters
(22:20) Paper crafting as a simple way to create 3D elements (more on papercraft here)
(28:00) Leveling in D&D 5e and Storm King’s Thunder
(32:15) Putting the brakes on leveling for Nightstone and bridges to the next chapters
(33:45) Alternate utilization of Zephyros and Harshnag… and other throw-away NPCs
(38:50) Extending the mid-tier levels prior to getting into the main SKT story
(41:25) Finding other adventures that can tie into the SKT story arc
               (43:05) D&D 5th Edition Adventures by Level
               (44:15) Death in the Cornfields
               (49:15) Mustering at Morach Tor (Dungeon #144)
               (N/A) Kraken’s Gamble

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