Monthly Archive: March 2013

Mar 28 2013

Episode #55 – PAX East 2013 or Knapik is Tired

Pax East 2013 or Knapik is Tired

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Hello friends, this week Mark tells us about his PAX 2013 experience and we talk about GM styles. Hope you enjoy and please feel free to leave feedback on the site, the facebook page, our email address, or reviews on Itunes.

Show Notes

0:55 – Introductions

1:58 – Mark’s Pax Story

25:37 – Who is Pablo?

26:24 – The News on the Road

Torment: Tides of Numenera
Wicked Fantasy: 46,000 all in all. Fate Conversion.
Achtung! Cthulhu
Freeport City of Adventure

28:25 – Extradimensional Entertainment Emporium

Chris
Lords of Waterdeep
Carcassonne
Megascorcher D&D Next
League of Legends
Army of Darkness on Android
Dungeon Raid

Mark
Castle Panic
Pandemic
Count the Kilts : 97 Kilts at PAX
D&D Next

Chris doesn’t like Actual Play podcasts

34:11 – Around The Camp Fire

The Judge and the Facilitator
Jeepform

45:49 – The Geekery

Monster Hunter International by Larry Corriea

Mar 20 2013

Episode #54 – Autism, the Gnome, and a Sage

 

Autism, the Gnome, and a Sage

 

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Hello Friends. This week my friend Phil Vecchione has teleported me to see Eloy “The Sage” Lasanta to chat about something different. All three of us have children who are on the Autism spectrum so we’re gonna chat about that. I’m a little early for autism awareness month but that’s how things work sometimes. Hope you enjoy the show.

Show Notes

0:34 – Arriving in Florida

Eloy “The Sage” Lasanta and Phil Vecchione: The Cannibal Illusionist Gnome.

2:15 – Who is Eloy Lasanta and what is Third Eye Games

Salty Bay Con
The Rolling 20′s Podcast – Excellence in the Gaming Industry

7:30 – The News on the Beach

Kickstarter: Wicked Fantasy
Kickstarter: Torment Tides of Numenara
Vast & Starlit
Secret Gnome Stew Book
Kickstarter: Actung Chuthulu
Kickstarter: Veronica Mars Movie
Top Billing Movie Card Game from Third Eye Games

14:29 – The Extradimentional Entertainment Emporium

Eloy

Top Billing
Sinister
Pathfinder
Battle Star Galactica Board Game

Phil

Pathfinder
Underground
Dungeon World
Pandemic
Elder Sign

Chris

Edge of the Empire – The Rakkata Riddle with Garrett
Crowe from Threat Detected.
Dungeon World – The Slave Pits of Drazhu
Dungeon World with Phil
Underground – Super Hero Team of Psycotics
Pandemic
Settlers of Catan

Eloy has a Secret Super Hero Project

28:54 – Autism Chat

1:34:54 – Who is Pablo and the Enchanted Microphone

Mar 14 2013

Arms and Equipment Guide for Travelling Game Masters

Friend of the Show, Eugene, asks, “hat GM-Specific equipment should I bring to run games at a convention?”

Awesome question, Eugene.

I think a lot of GMs try to bring everything they own, and that is a mistake. If you are a travelling GM your goal should be to travel light. I think a lot of people consider the ThinkGeek Bag of Holding an excellent bag for GMs. It’s the bag I use, and I know several of my fellow GMs who use it, so I’m going to describe what I think is the best way to pack that specific bag. You should be able to adapt most of the advice here for your own game bag. The key is to pack only what you know you will need first, then fill in any left-over space with goodies.

Bag of Holding - ExteriorFirst, let’s look at our bag. The Bag of Holding contains three external pockets and four internal pockets. One of the internal pockets is sealed by magnetic button and subdivided with internal pockets for pens, calculators, cell phones, and the like. All of the other pockets are sealed by zipper. One of the external pockets is padded for a laptop, or other sensitive equipment. There is an adjustable shoulder strap, and a flap cover sealed by two magnetic buttons.

Next, lets look at the list of gear we’re thinking about taking. I’m going to list every single item I own that I’ve ever used as a GM, organize it, and pare it down.

Books, Printed Maps, Grid Mats, Miniatures (or other positioning tokens), Status Markers, Dice, Writing Utensils (pencils, pens, sharpener, eraser, dry erase markers, etc), Scissors, Printed Adventure Modules, Handwritten Adventure Modules, Laptop, Tablet and other small electronics, Calculator, Playing Cards and other Specialty Card Decks (e.g. Deck of Many Things), Player Handouts, 3D terrain features, Index Cards, Tape Measure and area effect templates, Laser Pointer, Projector, Laser Level, Elevation Markers, MP3 player (or other source for sound effects), Character sheets (blank and pre-gens), Initiative Tracker, batteries, post-it notes, Pipe Cleaners, GM Screen, Miscellaneous Props.

So, lets start with the basics. Books, Maps, and Miniatures. Surprisingly, all three of these things should be very low on your priority list. Books are bulky, and you never know which ones you will need. At worst, you should have your Player’s Handbook, Rules Compendium, and Monster Manual. At your best, you are bringing a Tablet with PDFs of all of your books pre-loaded on it. Miniatures are big and bulky, and require lots of space to store. Instead, use a sheet of cardboard tokens, like the ones that come in the Monster Vault. These are easily transportable, and a lot more versatile. Maps that are rolled up in tubes are a nightmare, because they don’t fit anywhere usually, and you have to carry them by hand to keep them from getting damaged. If you have a folding printed map, you are better off, but your best bet is a foldable grid mat, so you can draw all of the maps you need.

Dice are important. You can’t play without them. Additionally, if you are running a lot of games for new players, you may want to bring extra sets, as new players often don’t have a set of their own. However, if you are rolling with an experienced crew, only bring your own set. And only bring a single set. Not the gallon bucket of dice that you paid $5 for at Gen Con. I know some of you have superstitions about the need to switch out dice that are misbehaving. Suck it up and roll the same die again. If you are bringing a tablet, or a smart phone, load it up with a dice app and leave your dice at home. You are much less likely to lose them at the convention that way, but see the tablet section below before going down this road.

Writing utensils are important. But avoid bringing #2 pencils and a sharpener. Pencils break easily, and make a mess when you sharpen them. Bring a couple of cheap mechanical pencils. Make sure each one is loaded with lead, rather than bringing an extra case of lead for them. Don’t bring a sharpener. Do bring an extra eraser. You don’t want to use the erasers on the mechanical pencils, because they get lost easily, and they are usually what is holding the lead in. If you are going with a foldable grid mat, bring 2 black dry erase markers as well. Do not bring wet-erase, unless you need to. They are more hassle than they are worth.

Bring a printed copy of your adventure. Don’t expect to print one out on site at the hotel. Don’t expect to borrow one from the convention organizers. If your organizers are giving you hand-outs for your adventures (typical at Gen Con and Origins for LFR) don’t bring your own. Otherwise, bring enough to last you for all of your games.

Pre-Gen Character sheets are important, and don’t take up a lot of space. Don’t bring more than 6. Blank sheets are not important. You might think that a blank sheet is more versatile. You’re right, but it also takes a long time to generate a character. If a player shows up who hasn’t prepared, or you are running with new players, just hand them a pre-gen and go. Don’t waste time building characters from scratch in a convention setting where time is limited.

There are a few things on the list that should not be taken at all. Topping my list of excluded items are Laptops, Projectors, and MP3 players(or other sound effect devices). The Sound Effects are great at home, but in a convention center, you are likely fighting against other noise already. Don’t make that situation any worse. Leave the projector at home too. You won’t have room for it, let alone a power supply. Similarly, most laptops won’t last for a full 4-hour game without being plugged in, and very few convention centers provide power for laptops at a table. See the section about Tablets below instead. Don’t bring a stand-alone calculator. At this point in our society, someone at your table will have a smart-phone. You probably have one yourself. It will have a calculator on it, so use that if you must, but try to do most of the calculations in your head. Most calculations should be basic addition and subtraction. If something comes up that you need a calculator for, and you don’t have your own smart-phone, ask your players to do the calculation for you. Don’t bring your tape measure, or laser level. These are sometimes used to accurately judge distance, or determine line of sight. In a convention setting, this wastes time. Unless you are participating in Tournament Level play, just eye-ball it and go. If it’s too close to call, rule in favor of the players. Just keep the game moving. This goes for anything else that you may use to try to determine accuracy. Unless your adventure is specifically focused on elevation and aerial combat, leave the elevation markers, or other specialized position tracking tools at home. Leave your 3D terrain at home as well. This stuff normally doesn’t travel well, it is bulky, and it tends to be too expensive to allow to get broken or lost. At worst, bring a single piece of 3D terrain for the major battle of your adventure, to add a little coolness factor. Don’t bring a DM Screen. Don’t worry about rolling your dice in front of the players for 95% of your rolls. For that one roll that absolutely needs to be secret, just cup your hand and roll behind it, then pick up the die when you see the result. The only reason I would bring a DM screen is for the quick-reference tables printed on the back. If you can get by without them, don’t bring it. Leave behind any miscellaneous props. For example, one guy I know had a stylized dagger to show us how a cultist’s ceremonial dagger of sacrifice would look. This is especially bad because it’s also a weapon. Do not bring any weapons to a convention. Ever.

Now, lets talk about things that should be included. Surprisingly, I’ve always found that I need to bring a pair of scissors to a convention. There are usually handouts that need to be cut before they can be handed out, or things are printed 3 to a page, so I need to separate them. You should bring Index Cards, or Post-It Notes, but not both. I prefer Index Cards. They are useful for handling initiative, passing table notes, jotting down hit points, or any number of other things. They can even be folded into table tents to help you remember player/character names. If you choose to have your players make table tents, I always find it useful to bring a template to show them exactly how you want it done. If you are running Savage Worlds, bring a deck of playing cards. Pipe Cleaners are flexible little pieces of colored wire that works wonderful as a status marker, or as a way to mark off areas that are under an effect that lasts more than one round. I try to bring a small selection in a variety of colors, unless I’m strapped for space.

Finally, lets talk about things you should bring if you have space.
Status Markers and Area Blast templates should be made obsolete by pipe-cleaners. However, if you have an abundance of room left, these can add a level of visual appeal to your game that may make them worthwhile. Specialty Decks, like random treasure cards, injury cards, or tarot cards are cool to have. They usually travel well. Specialty Initiative Trackers are usually made obsolete by Index Cards. However, if you are the type who doesn’t like the card system for initiative, this can be a nice thing to have. It doesn’t take up a lot of space either. Finally, the biggest space hog in my bag is the actual Miniatures. These add a great visual effect to the game, but they are bulky. It’s always a difficult decision to decide whether or not you should make space for these. I tend to bring my box of player minis if I know I’m dealing with new players, or a small set matching up with Pre-Gen characters. On the monster side, I bring 5 orcs with various weapons that I use to distinguish between generic humanoid/medium enemies, a pair of large creatures, a pair of small creatures, and whatever mini I have that matches best with the big-boss of my adventure. From that base, I customize as needed to meet the demands of my adventure.

Tablets (and to an extent, smart phones) are always a tricky decision. They have a better battery life than a laptop, as long as you turn off their wifi and other radio connections. Bonus! If you do have a tablet, you can pre-load it with a dice-rolling application and save yourself that space in your bag. The downside of a Tablet is that if you are doing back-to-back games, it may die on you in the middle of your second game. If you have a portable power supply, like a spare battery or solar charger, you may be able to work around this. If not, don’t expect to be able to charge your tablet between games. Only bring your tablet if you have time to charge it between games, or a portable battery to go with it. Never rely on it as your source of adventure material. Always bring a printed copy of the adventure. If you don’t bring anything else, you can still get by with borrowing dice and other material from players, but they won’t have a copy of the adventure for you. I usually bring my smart phone no matter what.

So, lets start fitting things into the bag.
First, I start with my specialized pockets.

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I’ve got the padded laptop pocket, where I keep my tablet, and my pre-gen character sheets. I rarely use my tablet, except when I need to look up something in a book on the PDFs stored on it. I keep my pre-gens here in the external pocket because if I get to the table and I’m running late, these are the first things I want to pull out, so I can give my players something to start looking at while I set up.

 

 

 

IMG_20130315_190711In the small pocket on the outside of the bag, I keep my scissors. I don’t like them getting mixed up with anything else because of the possibility of cutting myself if I’m digging around in the bag for something.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_20130315_190930In the inner Button Up Pocket, I keep my writing utensils, my Specialty Card Deck, and a charger for my tablet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_20130315_191028In the largest inside pocket, I keep my miniatures inside a plastic box that you can get at any craft store. This helps keep them well-organized and sorted. Next to the box is my folded Grid Mat, and any folded maps I am using. Next to that, I keep my printed adventure and my index cards wrapped in a rubber band.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_20130315_190953The smaller inside pocket holds my dice. I keep extra dice packs because of the new players I often deal with. I also keep my Pipe Cleaners in here in a plastic baggie.

My cell phone goes into my personal clothing pockets, rather than into the game bag, but I may set it down at the table if I’m using it to track time, roll dice, or do calculations.

 

 

 

 

IMG_20130315_191142Finally, bring a snack. A granola bar, or something similar, will keep you going if you find yourself fading in the middle of a session. There is a small secret pouch in the Bag of Holding inside the largest pocket. This is where I keep a granola bar wrapped up. Try to remember to put a fresh one in every convention, rather than being stuck with a stale one. They won’t go bad, but as a rule, I try to avoid eating very old food. Bring a bottle of water as well. I keep mine clipped to the side of the bag, so I can get to it, even if I’m walking around the convention center with my bag slung over my shoulder. And if you are going to be doing a lot of talking, bring some cough drops. Your throat will be raw by the time you are done running 5 marathon GM sessions, and these little babies can help keep your voice from giving out.

I still have a lot of room left in this bag for any extras that I may need, such as my rule book, or even another box of miniatures. When I go to a large convention, I usually end up getting free stuff, or buying more materials which I end up carrying in my bag. Having the extra space available comes in handy when this happens.

 

There you have it. That’s my guide to packing for a travelling DM. What do you think? do you have advice of your own?

Mar 14 2013

Episode #53 – Craggnarok 2013 and Phil’s in Love?

Craggnarok 2013 or Phil’s in Love?minilogo

Hello friends, This week Mark and I have made it to Craggnarok where we hold a GM round table with Phil, The Illusionist Cannible Gnome, and Jedi Game Master Garrett Crowe. They also hang out with us for the whole show and Phil comes to a startling realization at the Geekery.

0:46 – Introductions and News

Phil Vecchione of The Gnome Stew
Garrett Crowe of Threat Detected
A question from the audience.
Games to introduce people to RPGs
Wicked Fantasy Update: Dungeon World is in.
Torment: Tides of Numenera – 900k in less than 6 hours.
Auchtung Chuthulu
Interface Zero 2.0

18:35 – The Extradimentional Entertainment Emporium

League of Legends
D&D Encounters 5th Edition style
Underground
Pathfinder
Dungeon World
Ticket to Ride on IOS
Garretts running 4e D&D for his nephews
Dresden Files
Gaming Retirement home

25:42 – The GM Round Table

Phil on Prep
Chris on Failing
Garrett on using prewritten material to create campaigns
Mark on running convention games
Questions

71:00 – The Geekery

Garrett loves the hash browns
Phil loves the Waitress I hate: Vera.

Mar 07 2013

Episode #52 – Year Two Begins

052 – Year Two Beginsminilogo

Hello friends, Chris here and I’d just like to say welcome to year two. Mark and I are on the road this week on our way to CRAGGNAROK and we’re adjusting to this new life style. Hope you enjoy the conversations we have this week.

1:32 – On The Road

  • The Gameroom was saved
  • On the Way to CRAGGNAROK
  • Giant Fandom Pandemic
  • Edge of the Empire by Garrett Crowe
  • Savage All For One
  • Armcannon Live
  • Super Smash and Brawl Tournaments
  • GM Round Table at noon with Phil Vecchione and Garrett Crowe.
  • Charity Raffle.
  • PAX East – Marks on the PAX Train
  • Wicked Fantasy Update – Savage Worlds Stretch goal has been hit and not on the podcast but the Dungeon World Stretch goal was hit.
  • GM Day was March 4th but sales continue until March 12th. Drive Thru RPG.
  • Read an RPG Book in Public Week.
  • Contact us with questions. (Insert contact info here.) Chris@misdirectedmark.com

10:15 – The Extradimentional Entertainment Emporium

  • Mr. Pants is still here
  • Deadlands and prairie Ticks
  • League of Legends
  • I got a Galaxy S3 so games on the Phone
  • Dominion
  • Underground with the creepiest love scene ever.
  • The mechanics of choice.
  • Artemis

21:31 – Around the Campfire

  • The setting – Ways to bring some life to your settings.
  • Integrated Mechanics
  • Scenery
  • Language

35:02 – The Geekery

  • They started a chain.
  • The waitress is still here!?
  • The Harlem Shake
  • No tip for the Waitress
  • We don’t have enough Mics to keep dropping them anymore.

Mar 04 2013

Finding Your Fun

Gaming is a tricky thing to discuss because of how big a subject it is. Just off the top of my head I can pull out War Games, Board Games, Video Games, Role Playing Games, Hobby Games, Casual Games, Party Games, Story Games, Arena Games, Live Action Role Playing Games, and Drinking Games. I enjoy most of them to one degree or another, especially the drinking games. Enjoying them isn’t really the problem though, it’s talking about them. How do you define a certain type of game? How do you rate it? What standards do you use? Is the design solid? How can you tell?

Answering these question is important to me because I don’t think it’s enough to say the game is fun. What’s fun to one person isn’t necessarily fun to another. So how does one define their fun? I think it takes some self-analysis. You need to look back at your experiences and ask yourself why you enjoyed a game. What parts of the game were enjoyable? What parts weren’t? Do you like working with people to overcome an obstacle? Are you more interested in competing to win? Do you like managing your resources better than the next person or do you want that plus the ability to hinder your opponents with clever timing and moves? Should the game be an even contest where skill is the only thing that matters or is the luck of the die determine the difference between victory and defeat more your speed? There are so many variables for games out there I think a large list of attributes could be amassed.

So to assist you in finding your fun I’ll share some of the things I’ve discovered about myself.

I really enjoy role playing games but I’m not as interested in games where combat mechanics take up most of the rule book anymore. What I want from them is a collaborative storytelling experience. This isn’t to say I don’t like the fighting parts of RPGs but I know the games with combat are rigged. In a lot of classical RPG’s (I know I’m taking a big risk by calling them classical, even games from the 80′s and 90′s had what we consider modern mechanics by today’s standards) the GM was a judge, there to impartially rule on the game mechanics based on the adventure written. That was the assumed role regardless of who wrote the scenario being played. I feel this has drastically shifted over the years to the GM being someone who has ultimate authority in “classical” games. It basically means they’re the final authority, not just on rules, but on the stories direction. This means if the players screw up and all die it’s the GMs fault because regardless of what happened the GM didn’t need to let the party die. The commonly accepted good GM provides the illusion of challenge while making the players feel like they’re overcoming the obstacles set in front of them while making choices which change the world. In reality this all goes through the filter of the GM. Nothing of consequence happens without the GMs say so or a clutch die roll. Remember, this is what I’m calling classical games. Games in the ilk of D&D, Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, Traveler, BRP games, and Mutants and Masterminds. Combat, which is the primary form of conflict in many of these games, is the largest offender. The GM can always stack the deck to kill a group or can use his powers to shift an unwinnable fight into something dramatic. The trick is making the players believe it was their decisions which made the event play out whichever way it did. That’s a skill I feel excellent GM’s have. It’s also a problem for me.

Games where I can have my ideas vetoed by the GM, where I can’t make something happen just because I would like it too, aren’t as fun for me. Games where the story is preplanned and my actions only impact the world in small ways aren’t interesting. As a GM I’m starting to find all these games to be formulaic in how they work. So while I like the combat aspects of D&D I know they’re rigged, making the thrill of victory and defeat feel a little hollow. Because of that view I play these games from a different lens. I look to see how the situation plays out. I play to push character stories and internal drama and I watch how the external stories play out as if I’m watching for the Meta plot of a TV show. This happened to me over time and in a subconscious manner. It wasn’t until I started trying to figure out what I liked about RPGs today, and what was missing from them for me, that I came up with a list for what I wanted. Here it is:

  •  Internal character drama supported by mechanics.
  • A story I can be surprised by and contribute too in meaningful ways.
  • A randomizer which doesn’t negate the games progression but drives it.
  • A competitive element because I like to compete.
  • Teamwork

These are the elements of games which are fun for me. I expect it to be different for everyone. For me I don’t think RPG’s can cover all of them. Internal character drama, a surprising story I can contribute too, and a randomizer which pushes progression of the game are very RPG. The competitive element doesn’t work because I know the game is rigged. It’s why I’m fascinated with the OSR because a lot of old school gaming tries to recapture that old feeling of GM’s acting as Judges. I want that fair and impartial judging where being clever could get you past a lot of things. Those games weren’t character in the world stories, they were very much player vs module. That meant a lot of those games were lacking what I was looking for in my first three areas of interest. It’s why I play board games like Descent and Arena video games like League of Legends. They’re antagonistic teamwork games.

With my competitive fix in I started to look at Indy games. Now here comes the tangent. I’m not sure Indy games is an apt term because compared to the larger world I would say all RPG game companies produce Indy games but for the sake of this conversation we’ll say anything not WotC, Piazo, Margaret Weis, or Pinnacle related is an Indy game. Indy games like Fiasco, or Apocalypse World and its clones promote narrative storytelling. Fiasco is almost an improv acting exercise where the decisions you make allow you to introduce or resolve a scene as a player and then the rest of the group gets to decide the other portion for you. The dice rolling at the end just ties together the story you’ve told so far. The Apocalypse World games use the dice rolls to drive story, never letting it stall out. Something always happens when you roll 2d6. That something is either bad, what you want with a cost, or good for your character. It’s never nothing.

Those games both drive the game through their randomizer.

I like Fate because it has a mechanic for internal character drama, Aspects. Aspects can reflect a change in the characters beliefs and mental state over time. Fate also allows me to contribute to the story in meaningful ways through their setting creation system where all the players, this includes the GM, get to help decide what will be a part of the setting of the game. It’s still got some of the problems with its randomizer but Fate points help balance out the problem by giving you a choice of when you want to fail, while also letting your character be compelled to make character decisions even if they’re not optimal for the group. Best part is you’re rewarded by gaining a fate point.

So that’s me, the games I’m into, and why I’m into them right now. But that’s just one person’s fun. So take some time, think about what’s fun for you, and please share it with me in the comments section. I’d like to see your fun and how different it is from me.