dm tips


Campaign Planning, Reusability, and Separation of Concern

Some important concepts from my work in computer software can definitely be applied to campaign planning. Let's talk about two of them.Image (cc) Tim ProbertSeparation of ConcernThink of any dungeon* you've seen - or have written - with a map of the layout, lists of encounters for each room, key items and notes on where they are hidden.  How many times have you, as GM, had to skip, rearrange, shuffle or rebuild parts in response to the party's actions? Exactly.Separating the elements means more flexibility.  Generally, the dungeon map doesn't care what monsters lie within and the monsters don't care what important treasures they guard. So if we plan loosely we can make it easier to change or add things on the fly.Let's say instead we have:a handful of dungeon* maps, with or without notes about key featuresa page of magical or plot related items and a list of - or means to generate - treasurea page for each faction/threat with a few common monsters, and some sketches of common encounters at various l

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Railroad / Sandbox / Other - The Third Alternative

Image (cc) Dean PetersThere is an age old argument for and against the "Railroad" and the "Sandbox" when it comes to RPG campaigns.Railroads are pre-set linear story paths that the players can break by deviating from them; this is the main criticism that tends to be levelled at traditional published adventures.Sandboxes are environments that let the plots be driven by the players; the GM leaves hooks and clues for them to find but the story follows the players' choices.But these aren't the only options, these are just the options that are easy to publish.Some people love a sandbox.  The Welsh Piper blog has some amazing hex map creation tools perfect for sandbox campaigns and hex crawls are an old-school D&D staple.  The counterpoint is that sandboxes can lack focus - this is one of the many things I agree with The Angry GM about.  Popular opinion is that a railroad is bad, but a railroad is easy to run for new GMs.  Until the players break it and you end up having to write your own ma

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Campaign Planning and Management - 2019 Project

Image (cc) paganjesus on DeviantArtI'm the kind of person who likes to have a project, so I'm setting myself one right here.For years I've been looking for a way to weave the player characters into engaging plots while still keeping prep low and flexibility high, and it finally feels like things are falling into place. My hobby project for the rest of this year is going to be formalising my ideas and getting them down on paper. Electrons. Like so:On DMing, or How I Learned to Let Go and Embrace the Chaos (May)Railroad / Sandbox / Other (June)Reusability and Separation of Concern (July)Using a Grid for Plot Components (August)Populating the Grid (September)Using the Grid for Planning (October)Reshuffling Items in the Grid (November)Example Campaign (December)Sounds manageable, and by the end I'll know if it works or not. Hope you'll follow along. I'll be using this post as an index as I go and post a retrospective at the end, wish me luck!

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RPG Blog Carnival - a band of Fair Folk

Image (cc) amorphisss on DeviantArtFae don't seem to feature much in Dungeons and Dragons games (that I have played) and I think it's probably because they're low challenge in combat. But why would faeries, who are essentially physically weak extradimensional magic users, be interested in engaging in combat when they could be playing to their strengths?By their nature, the Fair Folk are otherworldly, capricious, playful, powerful, and broadly disinterested in us and our world unless they can derive some entertainment or gain.Here are my thoughts on how to take advantage of this nature to have fun at the table:The faerie realm (or the Feywild if you insist) is not part of our realm, so have fun with geometry and geography:Faerie roads can join places in our realm with little concern for their true geographical - or even temporal - relationships.A moment in the faerie realm could be years in ours, or vice versa.Things that are small in one realm can be vast in the other.Fae settlements and buildings do not need

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Stars Without Number Ship Combat Control Sheet

Image (cc) desuran on DeviantArtI've talked about Stars Without Number a lot. I think I'll probably continue to do so; I love it. One thing I did find hard to keep track of was Ship Combat, fantastic system/minigame though it is, so I decided to make this control sheet. I also think I ran it slightly differently to the book - it felt right to me - so I'll explain how to use the sheet to run it the way I did. I'm sure you can adapt it.I suggest you have:A copy of the Ship Combat Actions for each player (I printed handouts from the free SWN rules) for referenceOne SWN Ship Combat Control Sheet for the table - click to download from Google DriveA collection of minis, markers, or tokens to help keep track.  They can represent the players directly or indirectly, it's just for visual reference on the sheet.Command PhaseThe Captain decides and declares the plan of actions.Players assign their tokens to departments (top row) if they will be taking Department Actions or to the Delegate Pool if they choose "Do

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Rollin' around the 'sphere

Having been away a long time I wasn't sure what was left of the blogosphere but it's great to see all these marvellous things already:Library of Attnam has a handy list of d101 Sci-Fi gadgets, for when the players need to find something interesting out there...Someone recommend Trilemma Adventures for one sheet (well, two page) dungeons and I'm glad they did.  The site has a Kickstarter for an adventure compendium which looks well worth backing and closes at the end of May.I stumbled across d4 Caltrops' ongoing list of interesting forest hexes which is well worth checking out if you're a hexcrawler - or just looking for things to fill in the blanks!I was intrigued by Roleplaying Tips' d6 ways to spice up next session as it made me think I must be doing something right; this sounds like business as usual at my group's table and if it's not the DM doing it to the players the players are doing it to themselves!Charisma over at Stuffer Shack makes a very good point about ruling with players in conflicts - an

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