Tag Archive: GM Advice

Sep 11 2017

Cypher Speak Episode 18: C’mon, Fight me!

Troy & Darcy plot how to run epic boss fights in the Cypher System!

(PS: If you get an episode that is mysterious and only 3 minutes long, please re-download ūüôā



What are your hottest tips? Tweet at us or comment!

Keep in touch & let us know your thoughts on the show or anything in the CypherSphere!

Thanks for all the support so far!

May 29 2017

Cypher Speak Episode 11: Level Up Your XP

CS-blank-250x250-webThe most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious

-Albert Einstein.

Darcy & Troy discuss the many uses of XP in the Cypher System, from the usual things like re-rolls & tiering up to things like adding narrative flavor, modifying Numenera, establishing NPC contacts or houses, and more.

Short-term Benefits:

  • The Cypher System Rulebook lists the following ideas for short-term benefits:
    • 1 XP: Re-roll any die roll, Decline a GM Intrusion
    • 2 XP: Gain training in a very focused skill, Gain short term use of an item or ability
  • Our other ideas:
    • 1 XP: Narrative flavor for a single scene
      • The shopkeeper has a tell that allows you to negotiate a better price.
      • You just happen to have a crowbar in your bag for opening this chest.
      • Modify the way a cypher works, staying with the original use of the device, but stretching it a little bit.
      • There is particular lighting in this warehouse fight that makes your character look really cool
    • 2 XP: Narrative flavor that lasts a bit longer
      • Characters are able to modify or add a new ability to an artifact, perhaps with a drawback kor additional depletion effects.
      • Recruit a friendly NPC that will help out the group for a short period of time, or is an expert in a specific field.
      • A temporary safe house.

Long-term Benefits:

  • The Cypher System Rulebook lists the following ideas for long-term benefits:
    • Familiarity: +1 to the die roll of a given task
    • Contact: Someone helpful to the party that can assist them over a period of time.
    • Home: A residence to call home.
    • Title: A title
    • Wealth: Characters come into some money
    • Artifact: Create an artifact
  • Some of our ideas:
    • Long-term¬†benefits should have a long and impactful effect on your campaign.
      • Allow players to bring in someone from their backstory as a contact.
      • Modify an existing artifact to have additional properties. Sort of a legacy weapon feel, so you have an item that grows with you.
      • That creature you formed a bond with permanently becomes your companion animal.
      • Your tinkering with that device/piece of Numenera allows you to permanently have a Google Glass-like HUD that tells you some extra information of things you look like (Horizon Zero Dawn‚Äôs scan ability, for instance)
    • Refunds.¬†If players invest in a long-term benefit and for some reason it’s not applicable anymore, you should consider refunding the XP they invested, or some portion of it.
      • Maybe the contact did work out. Maybe the Title became hollow, Maybe the GM burned your home to the ground. If for whatever reason something you invested 3 XP in no longer has value, or is taken away, think about softening the blow with additional XP. These types of things should be GM Intrusions at least, and Troy¬†would consider giving a bonus XP to the affected player.


How do you use your XP in a Cypher System Game?  Let us know your thoughts!

Keep in touch & let us know your thoughts on the show or anything in the CypherSphere!

Thanks for all the support so far!

May 25 2017

Gnomecast #15 – The Power of No

Welcome to the Gnomecast, the Gnome Stew‚Äôs tabletop gaming advice podcast. Here we talk with the other gnomes about gaming things to avoid becoming part of the stew. So I guess we‚Äôd better be good. Today we have Phil, and myself, Ang, and¬†we‚Äôre going to discuss Phil’s recent article, The Power of No.


The Power of No


May 15 2017

Cypher Speak Episode 10: Flavors Galore

CS-blank-250x250-webTaste the rainbow.¬†Darcy & Troy¬†deliciously discuss the character option mechanic “flavors,” introduced in the Cypher System Rulebook; how to use them, how to make new ones, and some of the coolest¬†new ones we can think of.


  • Schtick: Packages of abilities you can select from¬†instead¬†of your Type abilities so that you flavor that Type a little differently.
  • In the¬†Cypher System Rulebook¬†(CSR) are four base Types: Warrior, Adept, Explorer, and Speaker, and five¬†flavors¬†with which to modify them:
    • Stealth, Tech, Magic, Combat, and Skills and Knowledge

Using Flavors:

  • Gamemaster makes custom types for the campaign, selecting¬†type &¬†flavor combinations for the players to choose from. There is a Campaign Design Sheet in the CSR that lets you write out your custom types and delineate suggested Foci and Descriptors that make sense for your setting, which is helpful to communicate to the players what kinds of stories you’re intending to help tell.
    • Cypher Harry Potter: Perhaps give all the Types a magic Flavor so everyone can use magic, but perhaps also some basic abilities like Onslaught – making some kind of magic shoot out of your want to hit things.
  • For players,¬†anytime you get a Type ability (as an Advancement or as you Tier up), you can opt to choose off your Flavor list instead of your Type list. It’s never forced, but it’s an option!
  • Commitment Issues.¬†It seems natural to be able to add a flavor later on if you’re starting from a “vanilla” or base Type. If you see your character turning more stealthy, this is a great way to easily support the character that emerges. Good for people who have trouble with commitment *cough*¬†Darcy.

Creating Your Own Flavors:

  • Easiest way: Steal abilities from other Types of the same Tier, to easily keep the rough balance in line.
    • Lots to choose from, outside of the four base Types in the CSR!
      • 3 in the Numenera Corebook: glaive, nano, and jack
      • 2 additional Numenera Types in Character Options 2: glint and seeker
      • 3 Types in the Strange Corebook: vector, paradox, and spinner
      • 4 Types in the Gods of the Fall setting: champion, shaper, destroyer, and savior.¬†These¬†are all flavored Types from the CSR, so there are not really new abilities from which to steal. They are good examples of creative ways to remix Types, however!
      • More Types coming from the other Cypher System Worlds: Predation (releasing soon!) and Unmasked.
  • Second easiest way:¬†Reskin abilities to fit your flavor. Turn Onslaught from a force blast into shooting a fire arrow. Where a Glint convinces someone to do something with the¬†Complete Lunacy ability, but if you steal that ability for a Warrior, perhaps it is done via Intimidation, and perhaps is powered by points from the Might pool.
  • Beyond that, feel absolutely free to craft your own packages of abilities and skills to make the flavor you want. The above options are just the shortcuts ūüôā

Our Ideas for Flavors:

  • Small: built for small creatures like Hobbitses! Perhaps bonuses to stealth, bonuses to hitting a bigger creature. Jeremy Land also wrote an excellent essay in CypherCaster Issue 4 talking about this exactly! Go buy it here, the whole issue is fabulous.
  • Mundane: This flavor removes everything that smacks of having a power, and replaces it with things we use in our everyday lives as everyday people. Perfect for sitcom storytelling. Onslaught became skinned as an ability where someone used jargon so overwhelmingly that the target gave in to the demands of the assailant.


  • FLAVORTOWN: “Flavortown is a game about community, competition, and American Myth.”¬†Check out this¬†amazing, quick micro RPG¬†by Quinn Wilson called Flavortown, inspired by¬†shows that involve a lone folk hero visiting diners and other establishments, accepting the dishes crafted by nervous artisans hoping to impress the fiery folk hero.
  • Conan the Salaryman: an inspiring mashup.
  • Jeremy Land’s wonderful essay,¬†Races in a Cypher System Game, in the magazine CypherCaster Issue 4, tells you exactly how to use flavors to represent your species instead of taking the place of your adjective, so you can still be a Feisty Argonian Maid [Type] who Blushes Madly, or you can be a Bashful Lizard-person¬†Warrior who Never Says Die.


  • Troy: Honing his¬†storytelling craft through the Misdirected Mark episode 249 – Lay¬†Down the Beat… Structure, which draws on the book Hamlet’s Hit Points by Robin D. Laws that ports screenwriting beat analysis techniques to roleplaying games.
  • Darcy: Cypher System’s supplement¬†Expanded Worlds is out now! It doesn’t have¬†new¬†flavors, but it does give you some recipes for custom Type/Flavor combos you may want to try out for playing in the different genres the book lays out: Post-apocalyptic, Mythological, Fairy Tale, Childhood Adventure, Historical, Crime & Espionage, and Hard Science Fiction. A bunch of the Foci from this book are¬†amaaaazing¬†too – highly recommended. I immediately swapped out my Gods of the Fall Focus to “is Hunted by Moths” from this book!

Keep in touch & let us know your thoughts on the show or anything in the CypherSphere!

Thanks for all the support so far!

May 01 2017

Cypher Speak Episode 9: Numenera’s Marine Factions – The Beach Episode

CS-blank-250x250-webUnder the sea.¬†Darcy & Troy¬†discuss two of Numenera’s delightful aquatic organizations, the piratical Red Fleet and the underwater city guardian-scientists, the Conflux. Both organizations inspire countless adventure hooks and can be pitted against the party or in cahoots¬†with the party¬†with equal pleasure.

The Red Fleet:

  • Schtick: Pirate/explorers who eschew¬†man-made/Numenera artifacts and seek out natural wonders of the sea with their mystiously-grown “submergines”
  • Described in the Numenera Core Book

The Conflux:

  • Schtick: Respected guardians and caretakers of underwater cities that hold breathable air, they seek Numenera to help them in this important duty.
  • Described in Character Options 2, and references the oceia (underwater cities)¬†and¬†races detailed in Into the Deep and the glimmer Octopi of the Ninth World.
  • Question to the listeners: What’s extra weird about the Brine Hierarch?! Is she a lich?


  • “There is no peace, there is only FASHION.”¬†A take-off on the Sith Code, this sentiment echo’s Darcy’s strong assertion that the most important aspect of a faction is their fashion. The Mandalorians of Star Wars have cute-fancy armor, the Aeon Priests of Numenera have their silly orange robes, and bisexuals have their magical invisibility cloaks. It Is Known. This is a favored saying of Maddie Ray‘s, who is an amazing audio editor when she’s not literally being Rey from The Force Awakens or being a professional photographer or being generally amazing in every way. It is also a¬†fabulous¬†occasional segment on Never Tell Me The Pods, the best Star Wars podcast on the HoloNet and supportable on Patreon!
  • The Protector of Concord Dawn (Star Wars Rebels Season 2 Episode 13) is about trying to secure a hyperspace route for the Rebellion that is currently held by Mandalorians… via diplomacy! ūüėĬ†Darcy gets a ton of inspiration for Numenera through the Clone Wars and Rebels animated Star Wars series.


  • Troy: Blue Planet by Jeff Barber. Inspiring RPG worth reading even if just to steal for your Into the Deep Numenera games! It is also highly recommended by the subject of Darcy’s poddity….
  • Darcy: Rich Howard is my go-to¬†expert in the RPG world on aquatic gaming, and frankly my go-to marine biology expert more generally!
    • Rich & Darcy chat¬†about Aquatic Gaming on James Intracoso’s Tabletop Babble. Into the Deep gets rave reviews!
      • Related to this chat, Rich ran an AMAZING D&D 5e Aquatic Adventure for Tabletop Babble’s Youtube Channel. See his advice in action!
    • Rich writes a column for Tribality called From the Depths, which gives GM advice, mechanical builds of aquatic races and creatures for D&D, and much more! He has also written loads of award-winning material available on¬†DriveThruRPG.
      • If you want to support these endeavors and get cool pdfs and writing, support his personal Patreon!
    • Rich also founded and co-hosts the amazing podcast Whelmed: The Young Justice Files about Young Justice, the DC Comics animated series about the “sidekicks” of superheroes, such as Batman’s Robin and Martian Manhunter’s Miss Martian. This show has broken my heart over and over again, and makes Aqualad one of the COOLEST CHARACTERS EVER and painfully Numenera. Watch it, and listen to Rich on Whelmed because he translates¬†the byzantine world of DC comics and continuity and delivers impassioned, fascinating storytelling to flesh out the already great shot. They’ve also got amazing guests by voice actors and other creators related to the show! I can’t recommend it enough.
      • If you love Whelmed (and you will!), support its production on Patreon!
      • Keep an eye out for an Actual Play here with maybe me in it! As maybe one of my favorite characters!

Keep in touch & let us know your thoughts on the show!

Thanks for all the support so far!

Apr 17 2017

Cypher Speak Episode 8: High-Powered Games

CS-blank-250x250-webTurn it up to 11. Darcy & Troy discuss high-powered play, both through leveling up to higher tiers and through power shifts, which enable play with superheroes and gods.


  • Inspiration for supers games:¬†Whelmed: The Young Justice Files – A brilliant, moving, funny, accessible podcast that elaborates on the fantastic animated TV show Young Justice, which is streaming on Netflix and recently had a 3rd season announced! Hosts Caleb (of The RPG Academy) & Rich (of Tribality) are fabulous humans who bring to life the DC Universe and the excellent storytelling of YJ, even for people who had never touched that universe of media (like Darcy). They also have the support of many of the YJ creators, artists, voice actors and so on, and have really high profile guests with excellent conversations (except for Darcy’s). Support their Patreon if you like it!
  • #HackWeekGang: Troy & Darcy play at hacking, but these podcasts are where to go for real discussions of hacking games! Some of the best hosts in the land, as well!


  • Troy:¬†Brandon Sanderson’s superhero book series, The Reckoners¬†(and many other excellent books!). The Reckoners is about superpowered people who experience a darkness the more they use their powers, turning them further into villains. The Reckoners are non-powered people trying to take down these supervillains. Great inspiration for playing with the “high power at a cost” trope!
  • Darcy:¬†ConTessa¬†is an organization that promotes and supports leaders in gaming who identify with historically marginalized or edged-out groups (such as women, LGBTQA+, people of color, people with disabilities, and more). Our events are run by people who identify as “other” in some way, but we welcome EVERYONE to participate in our events and play in our games!

Keep in touch & let us know your thoughts on the show!

Thanks for all the support so far!

Apr 03 2017

Cypher Speak Episode 7: Gods of the Fall – Shifting Into Divine Gear

CS-blank-250x250-webThe Gods Are Dead – Now It’s Your Turn.¬†Darcy & Troy explore the Cypher System setting Gods of the Fall,¬†the first of the worlds¬†funded by the Worlds of the Cypher System Kickstarter. There is a lot to love about the Afterworld, the post-apocalyptic setting of Gods of the Fall, which is still reeling after heaven literally fell out of the sky and all the gods died. Players play characters discovering their divine sparks and potential to become fully fledged gods.

Gods of the Fall has some amazing mechanics and setting goodness that you won’t want to miss, check it out!

Safety in Gaming Resources: The X Card by the amazing John Stavropoulos & Panda’s Talking Games on its use, and Misdirect Mark’s episodes on safety and having a safety fail at the table even when you think you’re prepared.


Keep in touch & let us know your thoughts on the show!

Thanks for all the support so far! You’re all divine in our eyes <3

Oct 26 2016

MMP#231 – What is a Setting

minilogo-blackHey Folks. This week we start with some stuff about us and the network, break down what a setting is from our perspective in the Workshop, go into the social media of it all and hear some interesting things done with WoD games, and finish up with some podcasts and silliness.

Time Stamps

1:46 – What’s Going On

18:41 – Workshop: What is a Setting

1:24:32 – Social Media Depository

1:47:34 – Podcast Round Up

Oct 18 2016

Cypher Speak Episode 4: Sherlock Holmes & the Case of the Missing Recursion Entry

CS-blank-250x250-web221B Baker Street Рa mini-reality filled with danger and possibilities for your adventurers. Troy & Darcy discuss some of their favorite Strange recursions, and then explore how PCs might interact with this recursion, including cyphers and the twin icons Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty.

Worlds Numberless and Strange¬†– Dozens of new recursions for the Strange, expanded information on Ardeyn and Ruk, cyphers, artifacts, adventure hooks, creatures, and foci, oh my! It’s one of Troy and my favorite resources.

The Paradox Room – Two short stories from the Strange, one featuring a creature that escaped a fantasy recursion and found the bounds of Earth physics to be unpalatable.

Strange Revelations – A book of 10 extremely varied Instant Adventures for the Strange, complete with fabulous “Show ‘Em” pieces of art, one of which is a game board that you play on during the adventure! These adventures¬†can often be played in the Strange universe, where the recursions are fictional, or you could play straight-up Cypher System within the fiction of that recursion. I can’t recommend it enough.


  • Troy: Living 4 Crits play report of Strange Suns – a Dark Sun/Sherlock Holmes Strange mashup campaign
  • Darcy: Numenera Character Options 2 – new Types, Descriptors, Foci, and even expanded information on some of the factions in the Ninth World! Lush art, inspiring, and as always cross-compatible with any other Cypher System game you could want. There are WATER BENDERS in here, this is NOT a drill.

Keep in touch & let us know your thoughts on the show!

Thanks for all the support so far!

Oct 05 2016

Cypher Speak Episode 3: Cyphers & Settings

CS-blank-250x250-webCyphers: they might save your life, they might blow you up. Cyphers are frequently forgotten by players and GMs new to the Cypher System Рsome people find them superfluous. Troy & Darcy delve into what cyphers fundamentally are, share stories of how cyphers have changed their gameplay, and go into detail about what form and behavior cyphers may take across the vast number of settings you might use the Cypher System for.

This is a long episode – strap in and carefully holster your cyphers so that their mysterious energies don’t interact and bring about a singularity!

Detailed Shownotes: Coming to a theater near you! (Will be up within a day or two, thanks for the patience!)

Keep in touch & let us know your thoughts on the show!

Extreme Cyphers

Incantations – The Invisible Sun podcast

She’s a Super Geek

Thanks for all the support so far!

Sep 19 2016

Panda’s Talking Games 29: NPCs Prepped Vs. on the Fly

Talking Games Logo 200x200Show us how you handle prepped NPCs vs. on the fly NPCs! Phil and Senda wrangle some thoughts on how to create characters with appropriate depth in both cases, some useful tools and approaches to creating on the fly, and things to consider when you’re planning in advance. Phil threatens to do the show with no outtakes to prove a point and it’s terrible and Senda talks him out of it.

Aug 29 2016

Cypher Speak Episode 1: Pardon Our Intrusion

CS-credits-250x250-webDarcy & Troy explore the GM Intrusion, a core Cypher System storytelling mechanic, from both the player and gamemaster perspectives.

0:34 Artifact: Gamemaster (GM) Intrusion

  • Definition: A GM Intrusion is a mechanic in the Cypher System, where the GM creates a complication for a character, offering 2 experience points (XP), one to keep, and one to give to another player. The player can accept the Intrusion and the XP, or pay 1 XP to reject it.
  • 1:12 Numenera Glimmer Taking the Narrative by the Tail, which has great advice on GM Intrusions and some specific examples for Numenera
  • 1:27 Example GM Intrusions

3:12 Cyphers

  • 3:22 Troy: GM Intrusions from the GM Perspective
    • GM Intrusions force you to complicate the story in interesting ways
    • They act as a mechanical excuse to break the rules for good storytelling reasons
    • They encourage the GM to be thinking of interesting complications and to respond to player actions in interesting ways
    • The ability for players to reject the intrusion can communicate to the GM what your players like or dislike
    • Darcy‚Äôs Two Shins: Being on the lookout for good GM Intrusions can ensure you don‚Äôt get into a storytelling rut – you‚Äôre always looking for the next turn in the story
  • 7:30 Darcy: GM Intrusions from the Player Perspective
    • For first time players, GM Intrusions can come across as scary – Darcy often makes her first one silly or fairly benign, with the goal to communicate that GM Intrusions will be interesting, not always bad
    • Players look forward to these before long
    • GM Intrusions make failure fun for players.¬†This can lead to more diverse roleplaying than you‚Äôd get if you were always trying to ‚Äúwin‚ÄĚ the game.¬†However, players sometimes go overboard and want to fail all the time
    • The distribution of XP on a GM Intrusion takes the sting/bummer out of the complication, keeps energy moving forward
    • The mechanic of giving 1 XP from a GM Intrusion to a fellow player reminds you to focus on the people around you, get out of your own character headspace.¬†Promotes cooperation
    • GM Intrusions can manipulate the energy at the table. They can speed up a languishing conversation and refocus the table. They can also be used to bring player attention to something they‚Äôre about to miss – ‚Äúthere‚Äôs something cool here!‚ÄĚ. Players still have the chance to ignore it, or pay the XP to say nothing bad happens
    • Troy‚Äôs Two Shins
      • Having something physical to signal a GM Intrusion to your players is really helpful to not break the flow of storytelling while still signaling to them.¬†Generally, these are XP cards or tokens to represent the 2 XP being offered – Monte Cook Games has very nice decks for the Cypher System, Numenera, and the Strange.
      • Look to your players for ideas on GM Intrusions, especially when they roll a 1. They‚Äôll be creative and invested in the idea.

14:01 Poddities

  • 14:08 Troy: ‚ÄúHacking the Cypher System – Reactive Cyphers‚ÄĚ from Inspiration Strikes by Marc Plourde
  • 15:18 Darcy: ‚ÄúRaces in a Cypher System Game‚ÄĚ from CypherCaster Issue 04 by Jeremy Land

Cypher Speak Itunes Page

Aug 17 2016

MMP#221 – Changing Games

MM Mini LogoHey folks. It’s about migrating from Game X to Game Y and all the trials and tribulations that come with it. Then we follow that up by trying to provide some advice to help you make the change. There is also a large discussion about MCGs Invisible Sun. Thanks for listening.

Time Stamps

1:56 – What’s Going On

11:31 – The Workshop: Changing Games

1:04:52 – The Social Media Depository

1:40:36 – Podcast Round Up


Jun 06 2014

Directed Questions

Last time mentioned I would get into directed questions as a the next part of my foundational improvisation so let us begin.

Directed question are questions that are loaded to provide the player who answers them a connection to something you want to explore in the game. Say you have a problem with a dragon cult then you can turn to our virtual player Jim and ask him,

“How is your characters family connected to the Dragon Cult?”

This question has offered Jim’s characters the idea that his family has something to do with the dragon cult and lets Jim know the dragon cult will be important to the game to come. If Jim wants his character to be more pivotal to the experience the game is going to create then he should accept the offer and build on it by saying how the cult is tied to his family. What you’ve done here is create investment for Jim in the game because he’s created something for the experience making him an active participant instead of just along for the ride. You’ve also taken the burden off yourself for creating some NPCs because Jim’s characters family will now be there for you to use. To make things even easier for yourself you can now follow up that question with other questions based on the answer you received to help you flesh out the pieces of the setting for you to use.

These questions are easy to construct too. They’re just the who, what, where, when, why, and how type questions using the parts of the game you know you want in the game to tie the PCs to them. The best thing about this is once you’ve asked all your players one or two of these questions each then you have enough of a foundation to start playing if you’re comfortable enough with improvising scenarios. If you’re not then soon we’ll talk about improvised scenario building but next time we need to talk about the rest of the foundation and why it’s so important.

Talk to you soon,


Jun 04 2014

Foundational Improv

Last time I mentioned it’s been over a decade since I ran a game that was a story I laid out. Since then I’ve developed what I call foundational prep which gives me the tools I need to improvise sessions.

First off, if I have a location I know what’s going on there. I hate static dungeons, towers, spaceships, warzones, whatever. There needs to be something going on in the place that¬†the PCs need to deal with. It also needs to be something that has a real conclusion if the PCs don’t mess with anything in it. If you’re not running a location based scenario then come up with some solid motivation and goals along with an understanding of why the bad guys or gals want to achieve it, and how they go about doing it.¬†For longer games I drop in more locations within the place, have a few more threads of events going on, and mix up the previous two ideas. A great example of this is in the beginning of Masks of Nyarlathotep. The final and most important piece to this is to make sure the characters are tied to the troubles that are about to happen or build your adversary faction with pieces the PCs¬†want to interact with. There are tons of ways to do this but directed questions work pretty well for me which is where I’ll pick up next time.

Talk to you then,


Jun 03 2014

Why I Think Improvisational is Better than Story

Last time I said,

“I wish the gaming norm was collaborative when everyone seems pretty content with the dictatorship of the GM.”

So I think that might be a little out there but then again it’s not. Now this is all anecdotal evidence from the games I’ve played in over the last 20+ years. When an indoctrinated player sits at a game table they defer to the GM and wait to be spoon feed what they’re supposed to do. When a player joins a group and is more willing to be involved I find they either leave the game or conform and that bugs me as a norm for most traditional game tables. I work pretty hard to include players into the process of crafting our experience with a Role Playing Game, traditional or not. It matters to me because I don’t want to tell a story. I want to be part of the experience; sometimes facilitator, sometimes active spectator, sometimes active participant. We use storytelling ideas because we’re comfortable with them, and improvisation acting games and techniques when we know them. Heck, sometimes we use them even when we don’t. Sort of a discovering or inventing of something that already exists and we just didn’t know about it. Either way, having learned more about improv, how it works, its principals, and usable improv techniques at the table, I can say my favorite gaming moments in RPGs are a direct result of improv, second to the drama of the dice, and almost never because a story played out the way the GM thought it should, including when I was the GM. I love those games from the last category but looking back I know they were forced. Even if the players had fun with the experience I laid out their choices and when they made their own that conflicted with the story didn’t really have an impact. It cheapened their and my experience.

It’s been over a decade since I ran a game like that and next time I’ll talk about how I set myself to be able to use those improv techniques with something called foundational improv.

Talk you you then,


Jun 02 2014

Introductions to Words from Chris

I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess I’m not an atypical gamer. I like playing D&D just as much as I like playing Dungeon World. I’m into everything about Pathfinder except Pathfinder itself. I think Savage Worlds is one of the most GM dependent games in existence. That mean’s I’d rather GM it than be a player. I dig games like Marvel Dice Masters but I don’t like Magic the Gathering. I love Puerto Rico and Alhambra but not Power Grid. I think Munchkin is cute about twice but really like Cut Throat Caverns. I like match three games like Marvel Puzzle Quest but I’m not so into farmcrushquest or whatever that game is on face book that people are playing at the moment. I equate a lot of games, from video to table top, to storytelling experiences when really the story isn’t even there until we finish the game. I find words we use to describe things in games meaningless because everyone thinks they have a meaning when in reality none of us can agree on a definition. I wish the gaming norm was collaborative when everyone seems pretty content with the dictatorship of the GM. I’m just kinda weird and I’m letting you know. You might agree with me. I’m going to guess you won’t. I have things on my mind that I want to say, like, to quote myself,

“I wish the gaming norm was collaborative when everyone seems pretty content with the dictatorship of the GM.”

Next time I’ll talk about why I wish gaming was normally collaborative. See you then.


Mar 20 2014

Episode #105 – The New GM and Moving Day

      1. 105-The-New-GM-and-Moving-Day.mp3

The New GM and Moving Day

Hey Folks. This week Phil Vecchione is in the house as the new co-host of the show and we’re moving all his stuff in. It’s a lot of stuff. I mean a whole tone of stuff. Good thing I have an extradimentional space to put it in. We also take a listener question about tips for starting a new campaign as a new GM in the Workshop and announce a couple of new segments. Enjoy and feel free to tell us what you think and how we can make the show better.

Sponsors for the Show – Level 99 Games, Evil Beagle Games

0:47 – Intro

3:16 – Watercooler

Secrets, Rumors and Fast Setting Building
Banking Fate Points to create suspense in Fate
Latest Bundle of Holding: Fantastic Valor
Descriptive damage for Dungeon World
Adding mini’s to your fate game
Corporia the RPG
Ritual in Roleplaying games
Two Column Fate
Mall Adventures
Project Paradigm
Ross and Sean’s Big Denver Adventure
Around the Table

25:10 – Gameroom

Marvel Puzzle Quest
League of Legends
Killer Bunnies
Dr. Who
Dungeon World – The Airy Peaks
Savage Worlds: Elhal – The Harvest

Dungeon World – The Airy Peaks
Dangerous Space Jail

41:43 – Workshop – Advice for the New GM

Start small…just get your first adventure under your belt.
Learn the core rules…skill checks and combat.
Understand what your game is doing.
Connect with the players, connect with the characters.
Don’t sweat the first session its like the pilot of a TV show.

Golden Sky Stories

57:14 – Geekery

Veronica Mars Movie

Agents of Shield
The Boys (comic)
Minecraft Wiki

Jan 16 2014

Episode #97 – Microscope and Star Wars EU

      1. 097-Microscope-and-Star-Wars-EU.mp3

Microscope and Star Wars EU


Hey folks. This week I have Drew Smith. My secret podcasting topic weapon joins me for the show this week as we hash out Microscope, a game by Ben Robins from Lame Mage Productions. It leads us to the idea of creative constraint before we get to Drew ranting about getting to the action. We also chew on the fate of the Star Wars EU in the geekery.

Sponsors for the Show – Level 99 Games, Evil Beagle

0:33 – Intro

3:44 – Watercooler

15:14 – Gameroom

Find a Link to GASP
Edge of the Empire – Heist Mechanics and ‚ÄúGetting to the Monkey/Action‚ÄĚ
King of Tokyo + Expansions
Boss Monster (Card game)
Neverwinter MMO (optional, i dont know if anyone cares about this, but its technically D&D)
Arkham vs Eldritch Horror

Marvel Puzzle Quest
Final Fantasy IV the after years
Monster Con
Secret Tijuana Deathmatch
Puerto Rico
Nile De Luxor
Numbers League

37:55 – Workshop: Double shot

  • Worldbuilding, Creativity, Player-Buy-In, and games like DW and Microscope.
  • Microscope by¬†Ben Robins
  • ‚ÄúGetting to the Action‚ÄĚ, learning to limit the setup and get things rolling as soon as possible?


1:12:25 – Geekery: Disney’s Overhaul of the StarWars Expanded Universe conversation.

Jan 09 2014

Episode #96 – Game, Story, or Character

      1. 096-Game-Story-or-Character.mp3

Game, Story, or Character

Hey Folks. This week I’m joined by Phil Vecchione, the Gnome Illusionist Cannibal, for the show and we chat about playing games at the Story, Game, and Character levels, what that means, and how it can help you in your games.

Sponsors for the Show – Level 99 Games

0:34 – Intro

4:48 – Watercooler

24:01 – Gameroom

Penny Arcade Card Game
Smash Up
Lords of Waterdeep

Breach & Clear
Halo: Reach, Halo 4, Batman: Arkham City
Scategories & Scategories Categories
Mage Knight

40:42 – Workshop: What level are you playing your game at?

58:37 – Geekery

Dr. Who
AMC Theaters

The Empire Strikes for Bucks



Dec 04 2013

Episode #91 – Lie Detectors, Geeking with Baby, and Gaming Locations

      1. 091-Lie-Detectors-Geeking-with-Baby-and-Gaming-Locations.mp3

Lie Detectors, Geeking with Baby, and Gaming Locations

Hey Folks. This week we talk about Insight and how to handle it during your game and have several other conversations about gaming clubs and locations and geek culture concerning Mark’s feelings on parenting.

Sponsors for the Show – Level 99 Games, Seeley & Kanes

0:44 – Intro – Appendicitis sucks

4:22 – Watercooler
No More Open Gaming
Mike Merals Design Finesse Part 2
Elder Sign Omens is now on Steam
BS-Radio Hiatus Over
Pelgrane Press is looking for Playtesters
Level 99 Games Spot – Argent the Consortium

26:24 – Gameroom

Blood Bowl
Ticket to Ride

Cards Against Humanity
Eat A Whole Pie

30:19 – Workshop – Insight as a lie detector. How to deal with the problem

1:01:48 – Geekery

We’re Alive: A podcast about Survival
More Superhero Redesigns
What Little Boys learn from Star Wars

Nov 19 2013

Patreon #4 – Geek Fitness and Gnomes at GenCon

      1. P004-Geek-Fitness-and-Gnomes-at-GenCon.mp3

Geek Fitness and Gnomes at GenCon

Hey Folks. Chris here with another installment of the Patreon series. Tangent Twin Katie and I talk about some of the geekier ways to get in shape this time around and we have a bonus on the end in the form of the Gnome Stew panel from GenCon 2013. I unfortunately lost all the pictures.


Show Notes

Zombies Run, Nerd Fitness, Fit Bit, SCA, Dagohir, quidditch leagues, LASH, Kickball

Apr 27 2013

Bonus #1 – Just Press Start

Just Press Start


Hello Friends. On this special Episode of the MMP I talk with Jeff Clark, creator of the Just Press Start Kickstarter about Gamification in the his classroom, drop some news about the QCC, and give a little GMing advice.

0:44 – News

2:09 –¬†Just Press Start – Video Game-Based learning in the Classroom

26:18 – Game Mastering Advice

Apr 22 2013


I think presentation is king, be it at the table or in the rule book your reading. When it comes to playing at the table I think framing is the best way to think about presenting the game. When I say framing this is what I mean:

The parameters you lay down to create with in X. X being the individual game, the scene, the campaign, or any variable you want to throw in there.

Now to the details.

Campaign Framing

When you’re setting up your campaign I think it’s important to have a frame, especially if you, as a GM, have some idea’s you want to put forth. To give those idea’s a chance you need to place the players in a creative box while still having a big idea, theme, or genre to build inside of. That means you give them some choices but keep the choices constrained. For example if you’re running a game in a city and you have an idea for a conspiracy / noir detective story it makes sense to create the parameter of “You’re all connected to a Private Detective Agency.” Now all the players can create something within the parameter you‚Äôve described. If you think the ‚Äúbox‚ÄĚ you‚Äôve created is too small here’s a list of character archetypes you could have just off the top of my head. The hard-nosed private eye, the girl detective who uses all the tools at her disposal and won‚Äôt take anyone‚Äôs guff, the underworld guy who’s knows everyone but isn‚Äôt always trustworthy, the muscle you call in for hard jobs, the kid who just likes to hang around the PI’s, the tough nurse girl friend of one of the PI’s, the former client who owes a private dick a favor or two, the cop who sort of likes the PI’s and works with them because they can go places the cop can’t and vice versa. All of these could be PCs in a campaign.

Story Arc Framing

Story Arc Frames I feel are very dependent on the first session of them or the opening act. If you ever watch a TV show, read a novel, a comic book, or consume any kind of storytelling media pay attention to the first episode or first act. You’ll get introductions to the characters. The themes will be introduced. The opening conflict or hook, which should be related to the themes of the story, will be presented. An overall tone will permeate this part of the story.

As GM’s we have some options with which to push forth our themes and feel. First off we get to frame the first scene. In this frame we can set the tone with videos, pictures, music, props or whatever you decided to use but our most important tool for this frame is the words we use and how we use them. This is your first impression, the opening of the movie, the first 3 minutes of a TV show, the prologue of a book. This is your chance to hook them in and push your players to take a similar mind set as you. If I was trying to get the feel of the conspiracy / Noir campaign frame from above I would start with describing a camera shot of the office door with the name of the agency on it and then I would turn to one of the private eyes and ask them

“How are you sitting at your desk?”

Once they described that I would have there be a knock at the door and have a beautiful woman in expensive clothing walk in. Next I would ask one of the other players

“You’re sitting on the couch reading the paper when she walks in. What is your first impression of the beautiful woman? Describe her in first person.”

This reinforces the genre and tone I’m going for since Noir detective stories tend to get inside the head of the characters. Plus I’m getting the players to give some insight into their characters and keeping them involved in the storytelling instead of just talking to them. At this point whatever conflict I wanted to present to the PCs I do using the Fem Fatal as my vehicle for doing so. She offers them a job which they take since they’re PI’s and need the money since PI’s are almost always broke. Tone presented, hook set, characters involved, job done. From here it‚Äôs all fall out and keeping the tone, themes, and characters in mind when you frame future scenes which leads to‚Ķ

Scene Framing

The framing of a scene is similar to the framing of your story arc except all scenes you frame from here on build upon the first scene and the scenes which came before the current one. These scenes exist to allow your PCs to make choices to push the story forward and create conflicts for them to overcome, whether it’s shooting bad guys, infiltrating criminal organizations, or hitting at the Black Jack table instead of standing on that 20, because while you both have 20 you need to win this hand and get out of here with the cash or you won‚Äôt make it to the exchange in time and your friend is going to die.

Framing these scenes by keeping to the ideas you‚Äôve established in your campaign frame and Story Arc frame will reinforce the kinds of choices your player‚Äôs will want to make and keep them thinking along the established ideas. The words and props you use will spark the imagination of the people you’re gaming with, inciting them to make decisions which will prompt your imagination in return. Here‚Äôs an example of a framing a scene:

‚ÄúYou find yourself in Terry’s Place, a diner you frequent. Where do you sit and what are you eating?‚ÄĚ

The players give their answers and you continue.

‚ÄúThe food tastes great as you’ve once again barely escaped a death defying situation.‚ÄĚ

This is a great place to remind them of the death defying situation they‚Äôve just escaped from but if you‚Äôre starting a session cold then you can ask – What death defying situation have you just escaped from? In this example the question is ‚Äď How did you escape from a death defying situation the Villi Mob put you in?

‚ÄúI guess the Villi Mob didn‚Äôt appreciate your interference in their most recent plans. That’s when a chair is pulled up to your booth and a man sits down wearing a black coat and a fedora. His eyes take you in mid bite as you hear the click of a gun cocking from below the table. Neither of the man‚Äôs hands are visible as he gives you small smirk.‚ÄĚ

“Hi boys. Sorry about this but Mr. Villi wants a word with you.”

You can ask the players who the gun man is or insert your own NPC.

‚ÄúYou recognize the man as Bobby the Hat. A Villi mob trouble shooter and that means he sometimes shoots the trouble.‚ÄĚ

Now we play the game of act and react.

So that’s how I think about framing. I’m curious as to how you start campaigns, story arcs, and scenes. Please let me know? I’m also interested in how you promote a tone or theme during your gaming sessions? Thanks for reading