Sunday, 9 March 2014

Lessons from running for the new group

First things first

I made a "What was weird about that one night stand?" generator. Mainly because it struck me that every time my PCs get lucky at the generic local tavern I tastefully fade to black and/or make them roll under all their ability scores at once to ascertain relative satisfaction.
Real sex isn't like that, you go home with some random chick you met that da clurb who seemed quirky and interesting (read: drunk and disorderly) and there will definitely be some fucked up thing that happened that you can tell your mates about the next day and which will haunt your Never Have I Evers for years to come.

Anyway, it's here in the NPC section or HERE if you want to roll on it right the fuck now.

So anyway

I've had the pleasure of running D&D for a new group recently, hopefully it has become self-sustaining since a guy invited another guy and we're playing at a pub in London on Beginner's Night for a D&D meetup group.
If you or someone you know are ever in London on a Tuesday hit me up.

But! Here are some tips and cool things about running games in the physical world -

On the plane to Poland with my non-RPG-playing housemates.
"So guys, what is the most terrifying creature you can imagine? I'll add it to D&D"
Half an hour later the legend of the Goosegoat was born.

Jenga blocks

Holy shit this was the best idea ever.
Something I have often struggled with, especially in the middle of playing a game, is describing how the corridor or room or area actually looks. I am terrible at it.
Jenga blocks? Suddenly you can tell the map maker "ok the intersection looks sort of like this and you are here" and they can see that it's like a T intersection except the left hand turn is offset by 10 ft.
Best of all, you can erase and recreate the amount of corridor/room they can in their light source as they move down the corridor and nobody bats an eyelid because that's as much room as you have on the table.
I used to draw stuff to show them how things look, but Jenga blocks are infinitely more tactile and adjustable on the fly and visible from across the room.

And there's more! You can scale that shit.
The players got to a city (Karlstadt from BTAM) and wanted to split up to do their own things and find various info. Sure, I'm good by now at shifting between players between actions so that each doesn't get bored, but that's the easy part.
The hard (possibly unnecessary but generally good to do) part is showing where they are in the city. Just make a circle of Jenga blocks, give a vague sense of scale, and move their pieces around.

Plus! Hey they're fighting across multiple levels? You can just stack jenga blocks and get a tangible sense of scale! So rad!

AND mine are drinking jenga blocks, so you have something to do if some people are late or you finish early or nobody's feeling it tonight!

This post was mainly to wax lyrical about how great jenga blocks are, but there's more.

This post will be interspersed with character sheets from the new players because they are super cute.
Behold an artist's rendition of the legendary goosegoat.

Paperclips and coins

You know what's great about abstraction? Fucking everything.
Back when I was running 4e we had these super cool printed cardboard battlemat sheets.
They were great, but they were limiting. I couldn't just say "Ok there is a bush like here and a fire pit like here", I felt like I had to go grab the high quality printed bush and the high quality printed fire pit and put them onto the same high quality printed forest scene that I'd used for twenty wilderness encounters before that.
And that took fucking forever let me tell you. By the time I found the fire pit the spontaneity was gone. 

Aside aside, coins are the best enemies and paperclips are the best heroes/retainers.
What's that? Miniatures are also rad? I don't have room for those in my bag because I have to take it to work and then to the pub where we play D&D and laptop bags are the only reputable carriable container for the suit-wearing man of means.
The other issue is that I try to have no idea where my players are going to go or what they are going to do, so having endlessly reusable coins and paperclips means I'm not put out when they go somewhere my miniatures can't follow.

Plus, paperclips are awesome because the players can draw a portrait and slot them into the clip and suddenly you have a freestanding guy with a face. If they die, they can draw a new portrait. Easy money.

I only saw these notes when I opened up the sheets and I am really touched.
They are actually making notes and I love these new players so much.
"Cat is OP - confirmed - cat is still OP", brilliant.
Random Failed Career
The second best thing ever after Jenga blocks.

"Ok so your guy is a ____ and you used to be a ____ before you became an adventurer."
 - Makes player-made backstory unnecessary (fuck thinking hard about your character before you're actually pretending to be them).
 - Gives characters some random stuff that's not on the equipment list that they can use inventively, but if they can't be bothered they don't have to be bothered (they can always be bothered).
 - Since it gives them a starting weapon, means I can fuck with starting cash and charisma (see here) without worrying about whether I'm preventing them from buying a starting weapon.

I probably haven't said this enough before on the internet, but these character sheets are fucking beautiful.
Logan made them for me special and I am forever indebted.
God damn I look like a professional gangster when I show up with these babies.

Starting a Campaign

Some shithead when they said that waking up in a dungeon is the best way to start any adventure.

Start of the campaign, "Ok, you regain consciousness and you are strung up in a torture chamber by iron manacles". Questions begin. Limits are found. The scene expands from my initial description to something greater. One person's manacles are weakly attached, there is only one guardsman because his guardmates ran out the door saying something about a monster attacking the entrance. There is a smell like cooked pork and you are all way hungry. The equipment you brought at char gen is stored in a locked cell nearby. And so on and so forth.

New people get a short spiel "ok this is where the players are. You guys stumble across them, you don't have to join the team but honestly it'll be more fun for everyone if you conveniently think of a reason to be mates".

Last time they got some info that the current party didn't know about which was interesting for both sides.
And it fucking works. Off we go, and the new guys are slipping easily into their new roles.

"Haha, there's no way you could do that thing with the stuffed cat on a rope in Skyrim"
Fuck yea, I think I got 'em.

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