I'll admit, I might be a bit biased on this one. The blog author in this case is one of the players in my somewhat weekly game. However, I think he has some really nice ideas and content and I encourage all of you to check out his blog, Mike's D&D Blog. As for a little background, Mike has been playing D&D since 1988. He started DMing with 2e and is a great source of advice and information on a large number of gaming systems as well as other sorts of games.
- Reputation as a Matter of System - Your party is gaining in level and nobody's heard of them yet?
- Getting the party inside your character’s head - What was Aoefel seeking to avenge?
- Fantastic Phones - Communication, does it need to be so hard?
- Snow and Ice - It's winter but yet the party travels unhindered?!?
- Combat Tactics: Gorilla's Paw - Making enemies out of allies since 535.
He definitely keeps me on my toes. And for all of you DMs out there who are wondering what your players might be thinking, he's a great resource. If you want to follow him on twitter, he can be found @TheMikeKatz.
The At-Will blog provides inspiration, techniques and more for D&D 4th Edition. The blog is maintained by a team of 6 contributors. I particularly enjoy the focus on 4E content since that is my preferred game. The posts are well researched and are often aimed at the Dungeon Master, giving the DM items they can incorporate into their campaign. Recent post categories include: skill challenges, music, advice, game mastering, wave and rules.
- Gamefiend, a.k.a. Quinn Murphy
- He is the owner and Editor-in-Chief of the site. Considered a jack of all trades he is an aspiring game designer/freelancer. He can be reached on twitter @gamefiend.
- Gentian is Gamefiend's wife.
- Ethan has been DMing since 1996, originally using secondhand AD&D materials. He has run a number of D20 campaigns.
- He was first introduced to D&D during summer camp when he was 8.
- Milambus, a.k.a. Jake Fitch
- Jake is a lifelong player of video games, card games and board games. Like me, he didn't start playing tabletop RPGs until the release of 4th edition. He can be reached on twitter @Milambus.
- Rudolf Kraus
- Rudolf began playing D&D when he was 9.
A number of my players really love these card protectors. They cut out the cards provided as part of the character sheet from the Wizards of the Coast character generator and place them inside these protective sleeves. The colors allow them to easily distinguish between the at-will, encounter, daily and item power cards and a little scotch tape allows them to write on the protectors with pencil. Here are the colors my players tend to use and how the color code them. They use green for at-will powers, black for daily powers, red for encounter powers, and gold for item cards.
Dungeon Mastering Tools
I used this for the first time last night. Created by the great folks over at Dungeon Mastering, this set of DM tools allows you to quickly create and organize your monsters, hazards, magic items, encounters and other bits of your game. For my game, it was great having that information all in one place. In full-screen mode for the encounters, I can rearrange the stat blocks in initiative order and I didn't have to keep track of a bunch of little pieces of paper. Another really nice feature is that it's possible to copy the information from these tools into Obsidian Portal.
While I plan on using the tool in the future, there are a couple of downsides. The fullscreen mode doesn't save your changes if you have to close the browser or move to another page. It would be great if it could do that so I could have most of it set up before the game and just quickly reorder things once my players roll initiative. Additionally, it would be great if it could keep track of the monster hit points for me too. I had to grab a sheet of paper to keep track of that.
I've never been a huge fan of the GIMP, but then again I find PhotoShop pretty hard to use as well (I'm a developer not a designer). However, it's pretty hard to beat free and the map drawing tutorial on NewbieDM has me itching to try it. Besides drawing maps, GIMP can help you with a number of your graphics needs, including creating your own tokens, creating fancy handouts and tweaking old maps.
Some GIMP Tutorials
Dungeon Mastering has a great article on how to read the minds of your players. It couldn't come at a better time for me. That same day, before I saw the post, I had sent out an email to my players asking them to come up with some character and party motivations for our current campaign and to add them to the wave I had created (if they were ok with them being public to the rest of the party). The reason was, I had a ton of interesting ideas for the story, but I wasn't sure which ones they were going to like. I even gave them an example, from the point of view of one of the npcs, Ralph.
- Become human again by proving that I can show courage.
- For while I'm still a chicken, obtain a rich looking cloak and other adornments so people stop thinking of me as an average chicken.
- Get enough gold to buy a hippogriff. Chompers is nice and all, but that was one nice ride and, when I go home, I want to go home in style.
Some quick backstory, Ralph is a prince from another land who was turned into a chicken by his pregnant girlfriend's mother when he wouldn't stand up to his father. The curse will end when he finally shows some cojones. So, he's got a few long term goals and a few shorter term ones.
While this approach has worked to a degree, it hasn't necessarily given me the kind of details I really need. Most of the goals my players put down are much broader in scale and very little in the way of short term goals. Their goals help me in a grand story arc way, but not in the week to week planning.
To find the bits to help me in the week to week planning, I need to folllow Nicholas' suggestions, especially the ones involving the character sheet. When it comes down to it, the character sheet tells me what they are most interested in and they most want to come up against. A party with few area effect spells might not appreciate an army of minions quite as much. A player character with glasses that allow him to read any language might, you know, want to come across items in lots of different languages. As a result of this post, I've now asked my players to send me their character sheets as well.
In the comments of the post, one of my players mentioned that he used to use questionnaires to get some information from his players. He also pointed to a pretty good player questionnaire from Newbie DM.
In addition to character motivations, I think it's also important to know about the player and party motivations, especially the types of motivations not covered by the DMG. For instance, some players have a particular scene they eventually want to play out in a game regardless of character. Likewise, to help keep a group together and make it a little less like herding cats, it would be great if you can get your party to set up some group motivations. If you've heard the Penny Arcade/PvP podcasts, it helps that they are all part of "Acquisitions Incorporated" and so, they are trying to increase their notoriety and are able to make a fair number of role playing opportunities around the tensions of individual and group goals.
How do you determine what your players are looking for from your game?
Musings of the Chatty DM is a blog written by Philippe-Antoine Ménard, an extroverted gamer geek with over 25 years of game master experience. He aims to capture that feeling many get when they enter their favorite gaming shop and are enveloped by conversations from people who love to talk about the games they are in and the ones they wish they were in. He is doing a lot of cool stuff and I enjoy reading his posts on his blog and on Twitter. In addition, I can't wait to hear more about a number of new projects he has in the works. If you need further endorsement, Wil Wheaton recently gave him a big thumbs up on Twitter.
Some Recent Posts
- Campaign Weariness: Ending a campaign before its time
- Turning D&D 4e's Economy on its Head
- Mouseguard Diaries: The First Duel
- City of the Overmind: Nipples of Chaos, Part 2
- City of the Overmind: Nipples of Chaos, Part 1
Successful session planning requires inspiration and execution. We will help with both! Learn how to foster ideas, mine tropes from TV and movies, and tailor content to your players with this workbook from the GenCon 2008 workshop. We will also explain how to take those concepts and compose your session notes by creating a development cycle and packing your notes with the essential elements.
From Here to There. Because no PC should ever relax.
Published by Goodman Games, this collection is aimed at giving game masters encounters to throw at the party during their travel to or from other locations, such as dungeons. They are meant to be challenging for parties while not taking away from the overall campaign.
For my current campaign, I used the story of Rumpelstiltskin as a story hook.
For those who are not familiar with the story, it is one of the tales collected by the Brothers Grimm and can also be found in a number of other countries with the name of the main character changed. In the story, a miller wants to secure the marriage of his daughter to the king so he brags to the king that his daughter can spin straw into gold. Very interested in such a gift, the king calls for her and tells her that if she cannot spin straw to gold for three nights straight, he will execute her. Obviously, the girl is quite upset by this turn of events and begins to cry. A creature hears her cries and agrees to spin the straw to gold for her in return for payment. For the first two nights, this works well, but on the third night the girl has nothing to give for payment. The creature asks her for her first-born child and she agrees.
The king is so impressed he agrees to marry the girl. Some time later, soon after the birth of the first child, the creature appears, asking for his payment. She again cries and pleas with him, offering him her newly found wealth. After a time, the creature relents and tells her that he will allow her to keep her child if she can guess his name in three days.
Knowing she does not have much time, the queen tries everything she can to find out the name. Just before the final meeting, she is able to find out his name and fulfill the challenge.
Incorporating the Tale
I'm not sure why, but I've always enjoyed this tale. It might have something to do with picturing the scene where the queen reveals the creature's name and his subsequent melt-down. Besides my enjoyment of the tale, in many ways, it is perfect for 4e. There are at least two ways of solving the problem, finding out the creature's name or just finding the creature and killing it. The process of finding the creature's name or the creature itself is a great excuse for exploring a local town and its surrounding area. In addition, a number of skills can be used for finding out any information and the skill challenge mechanic can be employed to help frame the game.
For my game, I made a few important changes. I introduced the creature, in the form of a goblin, before the characters even met the female character, Lady Margaret. On their way in between towns, they came upon an overturned cart and a farmer desperately trying to gather his chickens. There was a comic moment where it seemed like one of the chickens was leading other chickens in creating chaos but that is a story for another time. The farmer did tell the group that the reason his cart overturned is because a goblin had ran out from the woods in front of his cart, scaring his oxen. The goblin was repeating a rhyme.
I must not say my first name
for that is the object of my game.
Then that child, I will make him mine
And bring him home to Clementime.
This introduction captures the essence of the story and my players recognized it pretty much right away. Which is great because they then knew what sort of trouble might be upsetting poor Lady Margaret.
One of the biggest changes I made, and probably most important, is I changed the creature's name. My players asked the female character, Lady Margaret, right away if she tried "Rumpelstiltskin." She replied, "Oh, so you've heard the story too." I picked a pretty silly name, A Goblin, in part because it allowed me to let slip the name pretty early, before they even met Lady Margaret. During their encounter with the spriggans, my players asked the one they kept alive if he had seen the goblin, and more importantly, if they knew his name. He replied with something along the lines of "He said he was just a goblin." It was a great who's on first moment. But the name could be anything. When I told my brother my plans, he recommended the character from Superman, Mr. Mxyzptlk.
Another great part of this story is that it might seem quite strange to a modern ear that someone would trade their child, even an unborn one, for their life. In my case, I made it even a bit more absurd. Margaret had been upset because she and her now husband, Alric, were very much in love but Alric's father wanted a "more suitable" bride for his son, preferably another member of nobility. Her reason was quite simple. Since she had already heard the story, she thought she had the answer. When it turned out she did not, she was crestfallen.
Finally, I tried to answer the question why the goblin would want a baby. This is where the Clementime in the rhyme comes into play. It turns out that Clementime is really C. C. Clementime, President of Enterprised Unlimited. The spriggans had one of her cards in their treasure.
The back of the card stated that the card should be tapped three times. Doing so turns the card into a catalog of items available from the company. One of the catalog pages has a listing for children with the detail that the company is currently out of stock on that item. [The card itself is based on a card Matt Cutts found in an old book he bought at a books sale.]
Open Design Adopt-A-Soldier Program
Yesterday was Veteran's Day here in the U.S. and while we have our veterans and soldiers on our minds, I wanted to share a really nice program with you. The Adopt-A-Soldier Program allows sponsors to purchase a Kobold Quarterly subscription for an active member of the military. The recipient will receive a four-issue subscription (pdf + print) as well as a free copy of New Gods of Mankind, from Dark Skull Studios. Role-playing games are popular among those who serve our country and I think this is a great way to show them that we care.
GameMastery Combat Pad
I already added this item to the Christmas list I sent my parents (by the way, Google Wave is pretty neat for stuff like that). The GameMastery Combat Pad is a great tool for dungeon masters as it helps easy track initiative order and notes during combat. The board itself is a wet and dry erasable board with a steel core so magnets will stick right to it. It comes with 8 player magnets (blue), 8 monster magnets (black), 4 non-player character magnets (green), and 2 each of the round arrow, turn arrow and next turn magnets. There is also a magnet booster pack available. Along with this tool, I also asked for small colored magnet markers thinking they would probably be useful for monitoring conditions and the like in addition to the magnets we use on the game table. One of the reviewers on the Paizo site showed how he used double-sided tape to attach the pad to a $2 Target picture frame so it could stand up on its own and everyone at the table can see it. He also explained that he uses magnetic tape to create personalized magnets for each of his player characters.
GameMastery Flip-Mat Basic
I've owned two of these flip-mats for a few months now and I love them. Unlike my larger battlemat, there are no worries about which markers I use or how quickly I can clean it off. I've had a map drawn on one of these for months and it came off easily. The only downsides of these versus my Chessex battlemat is that they aren't quite as big and they aren't quite as flat. However, I think their strong points more than make up for that. They fold down to 8 x 10 inches and are easily transportable. For DMs who travel to the game location, this means that the map can be drawn before you arrive and placed out on the table. A number of different marker types can be used, including dry erase, wet erase and permanent marker. In addition, I find them much easier to store than my Chessex mat.
Sacred Myths Legendary Puzzles
This is more along the lines of my Geek Toys (Or things I want to work into my game) post. This set of wooden puzzles are meant to be solved sequentially, although it's possible to solve them in any order. There will be a total of seven of them, with each of them are based around great moments in science and history. From the description, I believe hints are provided. Some players are really good at role playing or and some are good at tactics, but the game can be a bit light on ways to engage puzzle solvers. Successfully completing one of these puzzles might help unlock a big secret or plot point and hints could be obtained through skill challenges.
- Davinci's Secret - The Clue
Break the codes which will help recover the Secret Scroll that is entombed within DaVinci's greatest mystery, unearthing the clues to Puzzle 2...'The Equation'.
- The Equation
Establish a base by arranging the wooden puzzle pieces within the boundaries. Follow by engaging a piece of DaVinci's Secret to decipher the scientist's formulas which must precede Puzzle 3... 'Legend of the King'.
- 3. Legend of the King
With fragments bestowed by 'The Equation', join the quest to liberate the legendary scroll which in turn will extricate the guide to exploring Puzzle 4...'The Enigmatic Temple'.
- The Enigmatic Temple
According to "Legend", there is but one way to explore this sacred site. Sequestered within the temple walls are blueprints needed to interpret the mystic 'Pillars of Atlantis'.
- Pillars of Atlantis
Divide and align these fallen pillars for guidance towards 'Carta Blanca'. Plans to rebuild are at hand, yet no part of 'The Enigmatic Temple™' can reconstruct the entity.
- Carta Blanca
Map your points carefully to expose 'Carta Blanca's mysterious hidden clues as these determining details will sustain you on your final approach to uncovering the greatest mystery of all - 'Secrets of the Pyramid'.
- Secrets of the Pyramid
Thor is the red-haired and bearded god of thunder of Norse mythology. He is the son of Odin and the giantess Jörð. Thor has two sons, Magni and Modi, with his mistress, the giantess Járnsaxa and a daughter, Thrud, with his wife, Sif. The family lives in Bilskirnir, the greatest of all buildings and containing 540 rooms. It is located in Asgard, the capital city of the Norse gods. Thor provides many interesting story lines since so many of his stories feature trickery and cunning in addition to pure physical prowess.
Ways to Incorporate Thor
- Close companions can be used by enemies.
- Loki was captured by Geirrod and, in exchange for his freedom, promised to bring the giant's enemy Thor to him. Thor is saved by the giantess Grid, who tells him of the plan and gives him the magic items that help him defeat Geirrod and all the other frost giants he could find.
- Failure can be success in disguise.
- Útgarða-Loki, a giant king, outwits Thor at one point. The king challenges Thor and his companions to several contests and they lose every one. In the first, Thor's swift servant Þjálfi runs a race against one of the king's men. Then Loki is challenged to an eating contest against the king's servant Logi. Then Thor is challenged to lift the paw of a cat, to a drinking contest and to wrestle an old woman. It turns out that none of these tasks were what they seemed. The runner represented Thought, Logi represented Wild-Fire, the cat was an illusion of the Midgard Serpent, the horn was connected to the ocean and the old woman was Old Age. Thor left the contest humiliated but it turns out that in attempting the contest at all and getting as far as he did, he had done deeds worthy of his position.
- The mind can be a most dangerous weapon
- At one point, Thrymr, King of the Giants, steals Thor's hammer and won't give it back unless the goddess Freyja marries him. Of course, Freyja refuses but they decided, against Thor's initial objections, to send Thor in her place, dressed in her bridal gown. He is able to play a woman well enough to convince Thrymr to have the hammer brought to his "wife."
- Recurring enemies are the most fun.
- Thor is in a life-long struggle to defeat the Midgard Serpent. Sometimes, he calls out the serpent and other times it appears in places, and ways, he least expects it.
- A few details of his appearance make him recognizable
- Thor is often represented by his uniquely shaped hammer. The weapon is so symbolic of him that it became a very popular ornament during the Viking Age and is a well-known symbol of Germanic paganism.
How might you use parts of the mythology of Thor in your campaign?
Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition Burst and Blast Templates
One of the guys in my gaming group, @TheMikeKatz, bought these burst and blast templates and they are pretty useful. They help us to easily know if a particular target is within reach and we can leave the burst squares on the table to signify areas affected by lingering spells. The same company also makes condition tile sets to help track conditions but we don't own these and I'm not sure how they work in actual game play. Having the color tie to the player rather than the condition helps with the issue of remembering who exactly caused the condition and makes it easier to say things like, "Hey, it's the end of your turn, do any of these conditions go away?"
Yes, they are expensive. But even more importantly, they are freaking awesome. The envy of many a DM, Dwarven Forge sets help answer simple questions like, are there any candles in the room, where exactly are those pits of lava, and are there any girls there? These sets aren't for everyone as some people would rather be limited by their imagination instead of the amount of money they have and whether or not the piece they want is available. But for the rest of us, we either already own them or continue to drool. Mike Shea, @SlyFlourish, has some great tips for incorporating them into your games. And if you haven't seen Gabe's post on using mirrors and lasers, you need to check it out now. We'll still be here when you get back.
Ok, this last one isn't quite fair as it's only really available to Google Wave users, but it's still awesome and I just had to gush about it. Daniel Clery, @exedore6, created a Google Wave gadget that allows one to create a virtual battlemap. More details on Fighty are available via the Save vs. Geek blog but these sorts of hacks are exactly why I love my industry so much.
A number of other sites have picked up on the awesomeness that is his blog. Wired's GeekDad blog included this blog on its list of the five great RPG blogs. His post about creating custom tokens was republished in OPEN GAME TABLE: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Volume 1.
Some Recent Posts
- “Dragon Age: Origins” releases today!
- To Fudge or Not to Fudge, That is the Question
- NewbieDM Review: Dungeon Magazine 171
- Pre-Campaign Player Questionnaire
- NewbieDM Review: Kobold Quarterly 11
- Warstories: Player vs. Player at the table.
As a bonus, newbiedm.com is running a contest for a signed copy of “The Ghost King” by R.A. Salvatore. He is looking for readers to email him with their best hand-drawn sketch of Drizzt and his black panther Guenhwyvar. Microsoft Paint is also fine, but if it looks like a 3D render or something similar, it will be disqualified. The person who draws his favorite sketch will win the book. He is encouraging everyone, regardless of skill, to enter. The contest ends Friday, November 6th at 11:59 PM Eastern time and all entries may be posted on his site.
EDIT: I forgot to mention that he also started a great new DMs group on the Wizard's Community Site.