This set of links is eclectic, but does have a few themes. Major topics this week include interesting ways to rethink your campaign at the level of what scenes an adventure contains, how your scenes/encounters can be structured to show distinct regions and reflect player actions, and how to coordinate a game heavy on characterization when different players show up each week. Then we peek into the world of aligned expectations, to make sure everyone understands what game style and flavor this campaign is going to have. From there, we round up some very handy links for all editions of D&D and lay some groundwork for the Dresden Files RPG. As always, we end with a plea for cool things you’ve encountered (or written) on the web that other readers would enjoy.
Enough preamble– on to the links!
There are a lot of interesting ways to look at campaigns (or shorter series of linked games) at the overview level. Recently, I’ve read three very different systems, each of which radically takes on standard roleplaying assumptions, but delivers a game that should be fun and familiar to most players.
Rob Donaghue’s post Rethinking the Campaign offers a very different way to structure a game. If you boil down the best parts of the adventure you want to run, you can probably get it down to a few key scenes. If you frame it like a movie– skipping the boring times in between the scenes, the research and shopping– you can lock into the most satisfying scenes to make a part of your game. His post is a great way to plan out a fun series.
Bryan sent me the Angry DM’s slaughterhouse system of region/campaign building. The system is inspired by zoned video games like Metroid and provides a system to set the GM up with good groups of monsters that make logical encounters. It also provides a mechanism for the adventurers’ actions to influence the world in interesting, measurable ways. It takes upfront work, but gives you a framework to structure improvisation and get solid sandbox play.
Over on Ars Ludi, Ben Robbins has an exciting example of a super hero game that’s set up to work with different players showing up each session. The post is called Crisscrossing Players and Plots and Not Losing Your Mind . It sounds like a lot of work, but the plot grid really helped keep track of it all.
Aligning Player Expectations
Chris Chinn has a good post for you to review before you start your next campaign. Going through the check list makes sure that everyone agrees on more than the game’s title– that you’re all playing the same game– not just “D&D”, but “Hack n’ Slash, victory is everything D&D”. Going through the process ensures the players are all on the same page— that you don’t have one player expecting a lot of intrigue while the other just wants to hack.
Judd has an example of group alignment from his recent play. Your view of the Forgotten Realms might be entirely different depending on your first portal to the Forgotten Realms: whether you started with the computer games, the gray box, the FRCG, or some other source book. By ensuring that everyone shared the same approach to the Realms, they were able to share the excitement of seeing the same NPCs in the game world. With a misalignment in portals, you various players might wait impatiently for beloved NPC to make it into the game… and being disappointed when it turned out that the GM never shared the portal anchoring your view of the world.
Ben Robbins explains how to pitch your game so you’re all on the same page: saying Let’s play Star*Axe and describing the fiction doesn’t get everyone aligned. Instead, your pitch needs to include any key deviations from your group’s roleplaying expectations, or you risk disconnect– or the feeling of betrayal at the “bait and switch”.
D&D Tools and Resources
Dizzy Dragon’s adventure generator is a very cool random dungeon generator. You can toggle the settings so it makes a map matching the first edition DMG, or tweak settings to make it come out matching other patterns. It has an old school lean, but you can use it for just the map, descriptions, or whatever component you’d like to save time on.
Peter S prepared and shared a few inspirational phrases for fantasy combat, so you’re not just “bloodied” all the time in his post I’m Hurt Doc!.
I love the use of Secret Missions in this post. It presents a cool tool for engaging players and tailoring goals to reward “stretching” play.
These dungeon tile pictures a great for IDing what’s inside each set. They’re deliberately too coarse to print, but very handy for figuring out which set to grab for that ruined tower…
Newbie DM’s condition cards for 4e (pdf) is a great thing that makes the game a little smoother at the table.
I wish I’d seen the Dingles Games website some time ago– the NPC generator does a great job of cutting down the tedium of generating NPCs in D&D 3.5, including adding levels to any of the monster manual critters. It’s handy for people running pathfinder these days too… [Found via 6d6 fireball.]
This is out of date, but it can still be handy– if a bit slow loading. The Wizards of the Coast Dungeon Tile Mapper does a nice job of providing the various terrain tiles from the first few sets. It’s easy to make a quick and beautiful little map, though the commands can be a little mouse heavy.
Dresden Files (and FATE generally)
I currently reading the Dresden Files RPG, working on a review that should go up sometime in September. The books are huge, so I can tell you it won’t be coming at the beginning of the month…
This RPG.net thread covers the basics of the Dresden Files game. It’s more of a “what is it?” thread than anything else– good for initial research.
For a great overview of the Dresden Files RPG, look at their downloads. The links include Harry Dresden’s character sheet– so if you know what he’s like from the books, you’ll quickly figure out how the system corresponds. There’s also quite a bit more– a sample chapter showing city creation and the powers list. It’s rounded off by the traditional PDF character, city, and quick reference sheets.
No matter what FATE game you’re running, inspiration for consequences and aspects is very handy. This list is perfect for Diaspora, but most of the examples would work out great in any FATE game, including Dresden.
What cool sites have you stumbled on recently? Have you read anything that’s inspired a different way of looking at GMing? A different way of handling NPCs, setting up plot arcs for the PCs, or anything else that other GMs would love to see? Please share your finds in comments!