Great Expectations

It was the best of backstories, it was the mediocre of backstories…

I had requested that my players come up with some background for their characters. Although I don’t generally require a detailed backstory when I GM, this was a unique situation.

This group of players had been trying to startup an Adventures in Middle Earth campaign for several months. They (which included me at the time) had gone through several GMs. For various reasons these GMs had to step down and another would take their place. I stepped up and have been running the campaign for a couple years now.

The players had shared backstory information with previous GMs, and there was an assumption that I had received that information as well. I had bits and pieces, but not all of it. Therefore, I asked everyone to provide a brief synopsis.

Game night came, the backstories piled up, and then I realized I had made a mistake. I hadn’t set parameter for the back stories. I had assumed the players understood how Middle Earth worked in the 3rd era. This lead to an issue with one backstory, and I will fully admit that I was at fault.

In fantasy media, Elves are normally portrayed as too good to be true. They excel at everything, they are handsome/beautiful, and many times immortal. One player wanted to play a character disenchanted with elf perfection. They spun a tale of deception, intrigue,and murder, with the blame placed fully on the shoulders of elf kind.

Now to be fair, they didn’t place the blame fully on all elves, but they had elves doing things that Middle Earth elves would not be doing in the setting we are playing.

“Thus entered panic into my brain, and fear into my soul.”

Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, however my immediate reaction was to dismiss the backstory completely. This was not okay and after chatting with my fellow blogger Frerin, I have a possible solution for the type of situation.

  1. Apologize for not setting better guidelines, and for immediately dismissing the backstory. In short: Own up to my mistake in the situation.
  2. Offer to modify the story to fit, if the player would like to keep the basics of the story. There is plenty of room for prejudice and distrust in the setting. Much of Tolkien’s writings contain people overcoming racism and hatred.
  3. Provide clearer guidelines and the chance to rewrite for anyone who would like to make their story fit better into the setting.

No matter how long you GM, you will make mistakes. I have been blessed to play with a patient, understanding, and forgiving group. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. (I might TPK them for a pizza though.)

Organized Chaos

Like herding Cats…

I’m currently prepping to GM a session for a group that stopped midway of a module over a month ago. I had to evaluate some of my organizational GM standards because of this.

ISSUE #1: I didn’t take good enough notes.

SOLUTION: This group had been meeting often enough that I was able to get by with shorthand notes. This was a mistake, always take notes as if you will need to recap the entire session for someone. It will save you a headache later.

ISSUE #2 (Possibly): My players may have not taken good notes.

SOLUTION: This makes issue 1 less of a problem. I chose several options provided by the module for moving forward that fit the notes I do have. I will present this as a “previously” recap, and then we will move on with the game.

ISSUE #3: The module scales with player count, and my player count may be different than when we shelved the module. This unfortunately means I need to be prepared to run between 3 and 20 enemies for one fight.

SOLUTION: My solution is bullet points. Most text editors can add bullet points, with sub-points. I can create a quick visual flow for any fight by creating bullet point 1 “Goblin.” Then I put 15 sub points on blank lines. When the fight comes, I just add HP, notes, etc next to the number of lines I need.

  • Goblin (DMG Page 962)
    • 1 20HP, stunned
    • 2 2 HP, prone
    • 3 0HP, dead
    • 4
    • 5
    • …..

Some small thoughts on organization, I hope you all have a wonderful week.

Running from the Band Wagon

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

I often find myself getting hyped for new fads of gaming. The horrible game that I regret preordering? Still bought the DLC. That $300 board game? Played it once and it sits on my shelf gathering dust.

However, I sometimes look at a game that everyone recommends and I’m just not interested. Age of Sigmar? No, I have enough armies to half paint! X-Wing 2.0? AKA: $300 to keep playing with $500 worth of models I own. No, just no.

Occasionally this causes me to miss something great though. I recently discovered the board game Scythe.

I had often seen it at my local hobby shop, pulled it down, looked at the box, said “hmmm… might be fun,” and then put it back. I finally grabbed it during a sale, and discovered I had missed out on something uniquely enjoyable.

Looking back, there was plenty of info out on the internet to see that I probably would like the game. This got me thinking. Why do I gravitate toward some games and not others? The answer:

Information

Whether misinformation or accurate facts, information is what drives people to buy in or hold back. Ruminating on this brings me to what I would consider great advice for anyone looking into any new game.

Do research.

Dont just look up trailers and reviews from people with free promotional copies and nothing to lose by giving mediocre or good reviews.

Look up how to play a game, look up reviews by Joe Everyman who spent $300 for the game, and listen to the criticism he gives. You may find that you totally disagree, and you like the game. I’ve had a few of those, but normally I end up with some fancy new shelf decorations.

Go find new games, but do the research and get a good one!

Buying RPG Dice for Beginners

Don’t Buy a $50 Metal Dice Set… Yet

The first reaction of many people I’ve introduced to Role Playing Games is “I want to get my own set of dice.”

I personally love this sentiment. I started buying polyhedral dice years before I played an RPG.

Continue reading “Buying RPG Dice for Beginners”
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