Saturday, November 30, 2013

A response to "How do you make/keep players interested in (whatever)?"

When setting the stage for your players, keeping it short and sweet is the key. Imagine a pitch black room and a flashlight. You can only really see what's within the beam of the flashlight, right? Everything else in the room is shadowy and mysterious. It makes you wonder, it elicits emotions like curiosity or fear. Same thing with D&D. Players have a very limited "cone of vision" within your campaign world, so there's no point in beating them over the head with excessive information. There's also no point in designing things that your players cone of vision will probably never fall upon. Drop knowledge on them as they actively look for it, as it falls within their cone of vision, or if it's vital to the particular quest/story they're embarked on. Other information is best left shadowy and incomplete. It can be tailored and unleashed as needed. The important thing to remember is that your players control the cone of vision, you control what's inside of it.

If they don't care about the villains background, so be it. Save your ultra cool story telling skills for that NPC or villain that they do decide to take an interest in. Just get some of the important details in there. Kinda like writing a thesis statement. "This bad guy is doing X because of Y, and you should  stop him because Z". That's all players need to hear 95% of the time. Awesome treasure and stories obviously help drive the desire to slay the bad guys.

As for main story lines.. I feel that you should always have one, but it should take a back seat to side quests. There are people out there who can explain this much better than I can. My friends, I think, are more interested in running short and sweet adventures that can be wrapped up quickly. Nobody likes dungeon crawls that become long and repetitive. Sometimes there's even room for two really short adventures in one session. A cool way to do this is to feed off of what your players are interested in and make short adventures focused around that, but that's a different topic.

- edit for one more little point...

Think about some video games you play like Skyrim, Fallout, Dragon Age, any of the popular RPG titles. What are you doing 95% of the time? Running silly ass side missions, kicking ass, and taking names. The main story is still there. You're still aware of it because you're being exposed to it in the background of what you're currently doing. Eventually you move on from raping and pillaging short dungeons and you start knocking out storyline quests. When you DM.. be a video game. Some people will want to beat me to death for saying that, but I feel it's a format that works well for the casual Tabletop RPG'er. After all, we're in it to have fun, right? That means you, as the Dungeon Master, need to be flexible.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Painting progress of a Dark Age Warchief

So as part of my resolution to take time painting my miniatures I started with a Warchief for the game Dark Age. Though I am in no way a professional painter I like to think that I can at least paint to a decent table top level relatively well. 
I totally forgot to take a picture of the model before I primed it but I think it doesn't make that much of a difference. Because I was in a rush to buy a can of primer this is GW's black primer, I am more of a fan of the Privateer Press' primer but I had to make do with what I had.

 I learned this technique from one of my buddies I'm sure that there is a more elegant way to both use this as well as a proper application of this technique. But basically you prime black and you dry brush white it helps make the details stick out a bit more as well as adding some instant depth to your miniature before painting it.

Quick example after a coat of Traitor Green from P3 line I believe. The color comes out pretty rich and you can see some natural depth that wouldn't be immediately apparent.

The miniature is coming along nicely with just some base colors, a good amount of the time I spent on the miniature was based on "color placement". When painting up a new model/army that is usually one of the harder parts to figure out personally speaking. I try and come up with little stories for a miniature that I am painting in order to personalize it more and rationalize the colors I used. For example for this miniature I imagined he found some old SWAT armor so I went with the dark blueish color for the armored padding he is wearing.

Here is the miniature just about complete all that is left to do was finish the base and varnish the model once I manage to go down to the hobby shop for supplies. I had a lot of fun with this miniature because I was able to take just a little more time than I allot to myself usually. Though it isn't to a crazy standard it is more than ready to be put onto the table top and be gamed with.

As I said before I am trying to devote more time to this blog to motivate myself to stay active in the community as well as track my progress as far as painting and other hobby related ventures. If you have any suggestions or would like to see more of something feel free to leave a comment! Till then folks!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Let's dust off some of those cobwebs shall we?

Hello everyone I am back! Just took a few months in order for me to get motivated into writing in the blog again. There are several reasons for this for starters League of Legends is a very addictive game... it just took a few months to balance the game with the rest of my life. Hobby wise I was still painting an odd miniature or two but in no way was it for a specific purpose it was merely to test out new paints or techniques I have acquired.

As always Gen Con was the motivator for me to paint a bunch of my friends miniatures as well as my own in preparation for the tournament... Of course it happens to be the last three days before the tournament that i tend to paint like a mad man to get everything done. Gen Con as always was a great experience and I think this year was one of the best I had attended. Nothing great really happened per se but for some reason I just really enjoyed the experience and walked away with a few nuggets of knowledge.

First my love of card games has reemerged! Don't worry i'm not much of a CCG fan but of Fantasy Flight's LCG business model. I played quite a few games of both Star Wars and Netrunner, both games rate extremely high in my book between art direction and game play. I didn't encounter anyone at the tournament that I thought was "that guy" everyone was friendly and all of my matches were a pleasure. Not only that but the variance in deck construction was quite good. Though some people used similar set ups they put their own personal touches on their decks that made me look at my deck through a different lens.

Second was my love of miniature games never diminishes though this year there was a notable sharp decline in the Malifaux games I played. Games like Dark Age and Hell Dorado I played at Gen Con were great fun and challenged me tactically. But I realized that I should not be rushing all the miniatures I want to paint for a tournament the week of Gen Con. Rather I am going to start painting miniatures months in advance even if I am not sure if I am going to use them.

Miniatures especially in skirmish games are very unique so I should take time to paint them up to the level they deserve rather than rush them out the door at the last minute. With that said I have taken an oath to take my time on my miniatures so after loading up on a few miniatures from Gen Con... namely Dark Age and Bushido miniatures the first thing I did when I went home is primed and painted a Warchief model (pics coming soon).

Well with that I am out of here for now I will update very soon.. in fact I am actually working on that article as we speak just going over it some for the final release. As always I welcome any suggestions so if you want to see reviews of certain games or just more articles of certain games I play feel free to leave a comment. Stay tuned everyone and hope that everyone is on the path of Geeky Enlightenment!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Some things I've learned as a journeyman Dungeon Master.

Dungeon Mastering is an art form. It is the art not only of telling a story, not only of entertaining your players, but also of giving those players the tools for them to create their own scenes, to affect the world around them, and to truly choose their own adventure. A DM should take pride in an entertaining and memorable session.

Although all players should be contributing equally to the creativity and immersion of the session, It's up to the DM to set the stage and ignite the fires of the imagination. If given the right details and prompts, players imaginations will flare to life and they'll run away with scenes. The DM's job is not to overlord a game session and beat players into the ground with oppressive rules and dialogue. The players don't care about your masterfully written campaign history or how many hours you spend fleshing out every NPC in your world. In the long run none of that will matter. The DM's job is to suggestively and seductively plant creative seeds in the players mind and carefully nurture them to fruition. This means that being a DM is an art. It requires a degree of empathy, the ability to read faces, interpret moods, alter the flow of combat/story to alleviate boredom and inspire immersion.The players will do the rest.

Details should be applied at the players request, or otherwise strategically to inspire curiosity and interaction. There is no need to tell the players every boring detail about your city if all they want to do is find an Inn/Tavern/Brothel/Store. A four paragraph description should not greet the players as they kick down the decaying door sealing the ancient wizard's tomb. A player does not need to know where the stitching pattern of the noble NPC's garment. Conversely no player should ever be left wanting of descriptions and imagination fuel. It's safe to strategically employ key details in scenes and gauge player's interest and reaction to the crumbs you sprinkle. While traveling through the city to find the Inn/Tavern/Brothel/Store there's no harm in mentioning key landmarks they pass en route. It's also a great time to introduce NPC's big or small. I recently introduced "Gorvi the Dungsweeper" as an NPC while the characters were searching for a Apothacary located along the waterfront district. An NPC of zero importance was briefly mentioned and the PC's took an immediate interest in his backstory... of their own free will and without beating them over the head with unwanted details. At the same time several of the main streets were name dropped and a few key buildings were passed... just enough for the players to remember "Oh yea, that theater place is on.. Circus Street? Festival Street? Something like that". It doesn't matter if the details are fuzzy, but it does matter that they are attempting to recall the information because it's being given to them in easy little bite-sized chunks. Knowledge of your setting and the ability to think on your feet are highly prized attributes to possess in order to strike this fine balance.

It was told to me that people think in terms of "scenes" not rounds, or hours, or even days. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Ask your players what their characters were doing seven days ago and you'll get answers like "well.. how long ago were we in that dungeon?" or "Well I think it took us about a week to journey through the forest right..?". As I'm sure most players do, mine think in terms of meaningful scenes. Ask them how many "adventures ago" something happened and they'll be much more able to recall the event in question. Enforcing a linear flow of time in a fantasy game is the equivalent of watching paint dry or trying to recall uninteresting pieces of information for a midterm. If the overland travel to a nearby city is uneventful then so be it! There is no need to make players set camp, create a sentry rotation, and re-memorize their spells every day for a four day peaceful journey through The Shire. Looking back on the previous point, and using overland travel as an example, details can still be strategically placed to inspire curiosity. Skipping straight to the third day of travel through a forest, when the PC's stumble past the ancient site of an overgrown fort, is perfectly fine.. in fact preferable. Players get bored easily, and DM's burn out quickly. Skip straight to the good stuff unless it's absolutely necessary for plot reasons.

The world goes on with or without the PC's. More importantly than your knowledge of rules is your familiarity with the world itself. Become intimately familiar with stage that your actors will tell their story upon. PC actions should have reactions. The better you know your setting, the better you can create a truly interactive environment. Don't drive yourself crazy trying to micromanage every NPC in 100 mile radius, but don't be afraid to place bold and conditional new details in the world based on your players decisions. The haunted forest they cleared out? It turns out some of the best wood in the region can be found there. Loggers from the nearby small village have set up a camp thanks to the players. My players recently probed the lair of a juvenile black dragon but didn't fight it. The result was a dragon rampaging across the farmlands the next day and taking out several farmsteads before returning to it's lair. Players have a direct role in the development of the story and the world itself, don't be afraid to explore the possibilities.

DM'ing is a constant learning experience, and I hope to improve my game in order to contribute to the entertainment of the players and myself. No one side should be clearly dominant. Players have an obligation to interact creatively and enthusiastically, but a DM's job is to inspire and facilitate those feelings and desires so that all players can enjoy our time spent together at the table.

What things have you learned to make you a better story teller?