Work, Work, Work

Last week got crazy with last minute preparations to go out of town to train a client, and trying to get over the bug that’s going around.

I don’t have much to write about for the blog, except that I have more ideas and things on the back burner than I seem to be able to get to. The internet at the hotel was particularly difficult to connect to so I could write this post and maintain my daily posting.

I am finally mostly over the cold or whatever it is. My ears are still a bit full, but I’m not coughing so hard I pass out when I do cough. I’m still tired, but now I actually feel like doing something.

Training today went well, and the data entry the client did is done and we verified it and I didn’t have to bring any work back to my room  tonight!

I ran by the local Wal-Mart and they had sheet protectors, so I got a package of 100.

I picked up some other odds and ends and had some ideas for the various games/campaigns I am working on/thinking about/planning.

I tried watching TV in my room. I don’t have regular TV at home. It was all ads and very little worth watching, and to think I was contemplating giving cable another try. I don’t miss it. It gives me more time to do other things.

Well, time to wrap this up and see how much I can get done before I need to get to sleep.

An Example Of Creative Spell Use

Back in college, one of my room mates was DM for an established group. I was allowed to play and run a “version” of my character from my Brother Robert’s game. I couldn’t take the XP from his game and then add more XP from my brother’s game.

He ruled that Griswald showed up by some sort of inter-dimensional travel.

As a half-elf Fighter/Cleric/Magic User, he could do a lot of things. I don’t recall what levels he was in each class at the time, but he had levitate and fly, so he was at least 5th level as a magic user.

For some reason, the party split up to cover more ground. The group I was with was on the beach of the island we were exploring. I don’t remember if we were being chased, or something would happen to us if we didn’t get away from the beach fast. One of the party was a dwarf and could not run fast enough to make it. I think one or more of the party was unconscious.

I decided to cast levitate on the dwarf to neutralize his weight, and cast fly on myself so that I could move everyone quickly. As I recall, there were three of us.

The image of a flying half elf pushing a levitating dwarf with someone else hanging onto him gave the other players a great laugh. It may have been ridiculous, but it was effective.

One need not have a lot of spells that do damage to be effective in life or death situations. Defense, getting away, and information are just as powerful if played right, and the DM is in tune with what you are trying to do.

An Example of Yes

A couple days ago, I wrote about The Fun Is In Yes! Today, I’ll give an example that shows how invisible this can be to players.

In my face to face campaign with my sons and the girlfriend of my oldest son, they kill creatures and skin them, decapitate them, etc. and then have things made.

For example, due to really bad rolls when they encountered a minotaur returning to its lair, it could not hit them and they killed it. Being a large and impressive monster, they took its head and brought it back to town. They wanted to take it to a taxidermist and have it mounted.

When I created the town, I had generated the different businesses and skills available in town. A taxidermist was not one of them. However, since the town is on the marches between the kingdom and the ancient abandoned city, and serving adventurers is one of its industries, it made sense to have a taxidermist. So I picked a name and decided what part of town the shop was in. They haggled with the owner over a price, and arrange for a time to pick it up.

They go back a few days later, just to check on progress, only to find a crowd gathered around the taxidermist’s shop. It turns out that the taxidermist was charging  to give people a chance to look at this head in progress. All the normal benches and things in the shop were cleared out to focus on this one head and allow as many paying onlookers as possible. This little twist greatly enhanced their enjoyment.

The agreement was to mount the head on something to make it easy to mount on their wagon behind the seat and above the heads of the driver and passenger. This sight alone makes an impression on less powerful foes they encounter. They later added an ogre head to their wagon display, prepared by the same taxidermist.

They fought two giant weasels, who again couldn’t roll to hit, and how their heads and hides are hooded cloaks.

I am sure, if we ever resume play, that they will skin and decapitate more creatures to add to their collection.

The twist of adding an unplanned NPC expert hireling increased the fun for both the players, and me.

There was no good reason not to bring the taxidermist into existence. Had I said, “No”, the mental image of two preserved monstrous heads mounted on a wagon, with a driver and passenger wearing giant weasel cloaks would not exist. That’s part of the fun of the collaborative storytelling that is RPG’s.

 

 

Character Sheet in a Sheet Protector

I have mentioned using sheet protectors to cover things so you can make notes with either dry erase markers or grease pencils. I shared my Spell Slot Tracker idea, and my Troop/Horde Tracker idea.

Today, I just mention character sheets. With all the the erasing and re-writing that can occur, they can become a mess.

I developed my own way of preparing an AD&D character sheet, whether I used notebook paper and hand wrote it, or took the same format and typed it up. When it is in a sheet protector, I can make temporary notes, and only make changes that are long term or permanent after the session. For example, a level change with requisite level title, and change in mas hit points.

In the online game I play in on Wednesdays, I use the form fill-able PDF our DM gave us, so I print that out and make notes. I need to get more sheet protectors because I have been writing and erasing a bit on it.

I use a separate sheet for tracking experience points and money, since those are the things that change the most often.

As a player, I recommend that when you are a player, that you are organized and have all the information you need at your finger tips so that the game is not delayed while you fumble with papers.

As a GM, I recommend that you suggest ways for your players to be organized, even giving them examples, or mandating they use a certain form, if they are never ready. Especially with online play, there are so many other potential interruptions, by weather, family & pets, phone calls, trains [I live near the tracks], technical issues, etc. that anything to minimize difficulties and interruptions will have big dividends in the long run.

 

Troop/Horde Tracker

In yesterday’s post on my spell slot tracker idea of a printed sheet with spaces to write information about spells and put in a sheet protector, I mentioned another idea.

This is something I came up with to speed up tracking all the followers and mercenaries Griswald has. I divided them into units of ten, or less if there were not enough of the same troop type for a full ten.

I outlined ten squares on graph paper, in two columns of five rows. I wrote the type of troops, their weapons and armor, and wrote their hit points in each box, For mounted troops, I put their mounts in a set of boxes to the right, with their armor, harness, and hit points. I then put this in a sheet protector. I could then mark and track hit points with a dry erase marker or grease pencil.

As a DM, I do the same with monsters in a lair. For example, 200 goblins, and assorted females, children, chiefs, sub-chiefs, shaman, etc. I don’t go to that much detail unless the players intend to attempt to clear out the goblins. For wimpy creatures, like kobolds and goblins that are less than 1 HD, I don’t roll their hit points. If they take a big enough hit, they are going down. I only roll the hit points for the leaders, or assume maximum hit points.

For multi-hit die creatures, for speed, I often give them average hit points, for each hit die. I make sure that if there are several of them, like an ogre lair, that the leaders have more hit points. I tend to do that more for on-the-fly scenarios. If I prepare ahead of time, I go with rolling them up.

Putting the prepared list in sheet protectors makes it easy to re-use that group of monsters again, for example, if I want to re-set the events of the live campaign for use when I start the online version of my campaign.

Spell Slot Tracker For AD&D

I have written a lot on this blog about my favorite character, Griswald, from my brother Robert’s campaign. Griswald is a half elf Fighter/Cleric/Magic-User.

As a character with two spell classes, it grew harder to track spells, levels, and details of each spell, so I came up with this simple, old school solution.

Lots of erasing of pencil on paper, or writing in ink and having to re-write makes for a mess. I settled on a neatly handwritten form made with a ruler on typing paper, later I printed it out on a dot matrix printer. I put it in a sheet protector. I can write on the sheet protector with a dry erase marker or grease pencil and wipe it off for continued use.

Griswald's Spell Sot Tracker
Griswald’s Spell Sot Tracker

Griswald has three magic user henchmen, so I have one sheet to track all three of them.

Henchmen Spell Tracker
Henchmen Spell Tracker

Next is the dot-matrix version.

Computer Printed Version
Computer Printed Version

Here is a link to a PDF of the unfilled printable version in a current word processor, Libre Office writer. It could just as easily be done in a spreadsheet, like Libre Office Calc. I did not take the time to get the row height adjusted to only have as many rows as needed. This gives a bit more room to write.. In my brother’s game, he does not enforce level limits, so my half-elf F/C/M is level 10/10/11. It took a LONG time to get there dividing XP by 3.

Here is a link to a PDF of the blank printable version

This has proved to be a handy tool for at the table. I will make something like this available to the spell casters in my game, or at least a suggestion that they use something like this to speed up play.

What I did was indicate one side for cleric spells and the other for magic-user spells. I then indicated how many rows for each level of spell. There is a spot for spell name, range, area of effect, casting time, and duration. This covered most of the crunchy bits of using spells. I also had a copy of the spells from the player’s handbook, also in sheet protectors, so that I did not have to take long to find them.

I got this idea from playing Star Fleet Battles and having the ship sheets in sheet protectors.

I came up with a few other uses, one that I find can apply to my current campaigns, that I will share tomorrow.

The Fun Is In Yes!

This idea came to me after I wrote Monday’s post.

The job of a GM is to craft his world and set certain parameters that set the limits and boundaries of what is possible.

The job of the Players is to press the limits of the stated boundaries.

Other than ridiculous things a player my try to attempt. For example, in a fantasy RPG with no firearms, a player tries to get the DM to let him pull a .45 caliber Colt 1911 of of thin air. Unless the DM allows for a chance of such gonzo* things to happen, I would say that is not in the realm of “Yes.” If there are no guns, how would a character even know what a caliber is and a specific model of firearm? Player knowledge vs. character knowledge is one limitation.

However, the GM could make note of the odd attempts to do things like this, and find a way to make something weird fall into play.

Most likely, the GM will get the player back on track and allow the character to attempt anything within their level of knowledge in the game.

For example, if a fighter knows magic exists and picks up a wand and tries to use it, will it work? If you have not made that clear, at least in your own mind, what will you do? I had not thought of this possibility until just now, so I know I need to think on it and have an answer should it ever come up.

Instead of a flat out “No.”, I would find a way to get to “Yes.” Instead of making me the fun killer, I could give them a 1% chance to have some powerful wizard in their ancestry and it actually works. If they fail the roll, it is on the dice. But if they roll a 01, then there is an epic story of how the fighter grabbed the fallen wizard’s wand and slew the vile beast and saved the day.

As a father, I had to say “No”, a LOT. Boys can come up with a lot of ideas. I know I had my share when I was growing up. Trying to get to “Yes”, makes it feel like a win-win. Except for truly off the wall ideas or flat out dangerous ones that had no acceptable alternative, saying “Yes” is a lot more fun all around. Well, until Mom hears about it….

As a GM, you don’t have to worry about “Mom” unless you are still in school or for some reason live with your Mom as an adult.

I don’t have that issue, as I live in my own house and can do what I want almost whenever I want.

It is easy as a GM to say “No”. However, if you open yourself to the possibility in advance and try to meet the player(s) halfway to get to “Yes.”, you can have an enjoyable session, perhaps with epic stories of a shared experience.

*  This one’s for you, +Adam Muszkiewicz.  😉

GameFindr Plea For FLGS Information

I saw this YouTube video about the GameFindr app beta and a request for feedback and going to thei FLGS page and adding all the local game stores you know about.

I thought that I would help out with this, but there is not way to verify if my FLGS is in their database, at least from their website,

I read further and at the bottom of the page where you enter FLGS information is states: “By submititng your information, you agree that GameFindr may use your data and showcase it in the offical GameFindr app. Additionally, you agree that GameFindr may contact you if deemed necessary to validate any information provided regarding your LGS locator application. Please allow 4-6 weeks for the approval process and for your store data to appear on the app. Thank you.”

Sorry, but I will not provide information that encumbers someone else for which I do not have the authority.

I shared the following comment on the YouTube video I mentioned above.

Interesting idea for an app.

However, I have the following issues:

1.) There is no search for LGS. It shows me stuff from Chicago about 200 miles away, in a different state. I have to scroll down the list. I realized that zooming in on the map let me look and my icon is the same color as other icons, are those gamers or LGS? I think they should be a different color. I also don’t like that it shows exactly where I live. It should be over the center of town. If I am the only one who can see my location until I accept a friend request, it is not obvious.
2.) I suggest that once you sign in that it take you to fill in your profile. It took me a couple minutes to find it.
3.) After watching the video, I was going to be helpful and go to your website and input my LGS, but I read at the bottom of the page that the person inputting the information gives your company rights to use the name and more of the LGS. I don’t have the legal authority to bind my LGS to those terms, so I will not make a headache for them.
4.) You have D&D as a game choice, but it defaults to ANY for version and won’t let me change it.

You asked [in the video] what it would take to give it five stars, this is my answer.

I think the idea of the app is a good one. It is still in beta, so I will check and see if anyone in the Kalamazoo area is on and interested in OSR games, esp. AD&D, Metamorphosis Alpha, or White Star.

I read through other comments on the YouTube video, and this app was funded by Kickstarter. It looks like they are on track for their project. Other than questions from backers wanting to not have ads, and the growing pains of what is consider proper development of a program now days, the Kickstarter portion seems to be well in hand.

I did have a few issues with the app itself. It took me a minute to figure out how to put in my information. I only get one match, and since they haven’t filled in their information, I don’t know what games they play.

A few days ago, they released this video explaining how to configure your Gamefindr profile, so people will click on you. As for me, I now have two matches, one is 8 miles away and the other 43 miles, but there is no picture and more importantly, no listing of what games they play. I won’t be friending anyone in this app without knowing what games they play.

I like that you can add games, but you have to use the website, etc. or it won’t let you submit them.

At Free RPG Day on Saturday at Fanfare, I mentioned Gamefindr and that the closest stores I noticed were in northern Indiana, and none in all of Michigan. Today, for some reason the two stores in Indiana are no longer showing. One of them was close enough I was planning to visit, but I did not make a note of its name or location. So now what? I have to google game stores in Indiana and hope I find it.

I know there are or were two game stores in Kalamazoo, at least one in Battle Creek, and several in Grand Rapids. It is free advertising, so unless there is some drawback I don’t understand, I think it’s a good thing.

Gamefindr has had 4 or 5 updates since I first installed it last week. They are making a big push to boost the number of users. Having more users only helps if people fill out their profile. If you haven’t managed to hook up with a local group of gamers, this might be one way to do it. But without more users in areas of less dense population, it won’t do much good. Chicago looks like they are packed. Detroit and Indianapolis don’t have much.

It’s a free app, if you can put up with the ads. I’ll do my part to help out and let others know about it. If you are looking for players or games for in-person gaming, this app could cut past all the limitations of online sites. The biggest limitation is remembering to check it every day. But no new area gamers, or no replies to inquiries is frustrating. However, just like the online sites, if no one knows about it, or those who use it don’t fill out their profiles, it is next to useless.

 

What If Your RPG Involves A Railroad?

Can a session of an RPG take place on a train and not be a railroad? Yes, groans all around.

If the transportation is on rails and the action happens on the transportation, how do you handle the game play and not make it a “railroad”?

There’s a scenario like “Murder On the Orient Express”, or a train robbery in the old west, or many others.

Similarly, if the players are on a ship at sea or a vessel in space, their ability to go when and where they want is limited.

As with all sandbox style play, the players should have a choice of whether or not they get on the thing. They can choose to remain on board for the entire duration of their stated journey, or exit at any scheduled or unscheduled stop, or jump off mid-voyage. Although jumping off a moving train is probably safer than jumping off a ship in the middle of the ocean or a star ship between systems. Unless there is some device or plot element to enable near guaranteed survival.

Players should be free to follow or not follow any clues to past, present, or future adventures. They should be free to attempt to go to any location on the train, ship, or other vessel, like the engine, or engine room.

As with real life, if I was on a train, and wanted to go to the engine, I could try to do it. I might slip and fall to my death, but I can try it. So if a player says they want to go to the engine room of the ocean liner, let them try it. They might meet a surly crew member, or end up in the brig, or they just might make it work.

With any sandbox style of play, the answer from the GM should not be “No.”, but “Let’s see what happens!”

Be ready for the appropriate random rolls for skills, abilities, morale, reactions, or combat. If they can turn invisible and/or walk through walls, it might be a trivial task. However, if they can’t do those things, it could be an epic way for a character to “retire” ….

Free RPG Day 2015

Free RPG Day, 2015 in Kalamazoo, Michigan at Fanfare Sports & Entertainment.

We had three co-GM’s: +Doug Kovacs one of the artists for DCC and other Goodman Games products; +Adam Muszkiewicz  of +Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad &  +Drink Spin Run – An RPG Talk Show Podcast, one observer – Adam’s wife Katie (She didn’t to play today. It was something about being in the last trimester of pregnancy and the inside of her ribs being used for kickboxing practice.), and +Roy Snyder and 6 players. {See here for Roy’s write up.]

I was expecting more players. the only other game as part of Free RPG Day was D&D Attack Wing. they had one demo game going when I got there. I wasn’t paying too close of attention. I am not sure if they did one or two other demos. Their last demo closed out the store with us.

It was interesting to see the three GM’s trade off and take turns with different parts of the adventure, each working their own particular twist into it.

Play was scheduled to start at 1:00. We played until about 3:30 PM for a food break, and had a few different groups we broke into to go to different places. After we got back from eating, we resumed play until finishing right before 8:00 PM.

We had some cool freebies. Afterwards, Adam and his wife, Katie, Doug, Roy, and I went to Louie’s Trophy House and Grill. Several taxidermied animals, either heads hanging on the wall or free standing full body animals. We went until a bit after 1:00 AM. They have $1 off local drafts on Saturdays, which was cool. We had a Garbage Pizza which is really good. My son has been there, which didn’t surprise me. He is a beer snob. We may go there sometime.

I was good to see Adam again and play with him as a GM, and meet his wife, Katie. I enjoyed meeting Doug, playing in his game, and getting to know him. He had an interesting idea for DCC, called “Fleeting Luck”, that he said they used at NTRPG Con. The GM would award luck for various things, but if it was fleeting, any time someone rolled a natural 20 or healed, the GM collected all the fleeting luck. Bad puns and jokes earned fleeting luck. I earned 2 and lost each of them in the same round because my initiative was after both most of the other players and the monsters we faced. One player rolled a LOT of 20’s, so I don’t think anyone got to use their fleeting luck. Their might have been one, maybe two, I don’t recall.

CAM00821
The GM’s setting up and smiling, that’s a good thing, right?
CAM00823
Our lovely product model Roy, showing off the mysterious Super Prize and the Other Super Prize.
CAM00824
Fleeting Luck token.
CAM00825
Other side of a fleeting luck token. They could be converted to +1 luck and the GM couldn’t take it back. One player managed this.
CAM00826
If you’ve ever seen Adam run a game, you know he had to use his hands, a lot!
CAM00827
Roy and Doug smiling at what Adam is setting us up for…. (Is that enough prepositions at the end to negate that rule?)
CAM00828
Things just got serious, you can’t see Adam’s hands.
CAM00834
I got one of these posters, which Doug and Adam signed.
CAM00841
Some of us took a beer cozy.
CAM00843
I got this poster for being the first of the first levels to die. We had a choice between 1 first level and three 0 level characters. Doug was kind enough to sign both sides!
CAM00844
Here is the other side of mt signed poster.
CAM00842
Of course, I also got my Free RPG Day Screen! Doug also graciously signed it!

 

CAM00839
Our server was kind enough to take a picture of us. My bald head shows up well, but I failed my illumination check to help light up the others.