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What ROLE-PLAYING have you been doing?
But since I just wrapped Lost Mine of Phandelver, I suggested we try the new Dragon of Icespire Peak from the Essentials Kit, which is a Target exclusive right now and I believe it will replace the old starter kit. Which is kind of a bummer because LMOP is a terrific starter adventure. But the good news is that DoIP takes place in Phandalin, so it’s the same area/place as LMOP and you can effectively combine elements from them. I decided to have them use the pregens from the LMOP box instead of spending a session rolling up characters.
DoiP is set up almost like an open world video game with a job board and everything. It really kind of requires a lot more DM work than LMOP, and it’s really quite free-form and not as specific. Yet it feels more accessible, and in fact I described it to these new players as kind of like The Witcher and they got it right away. The suggested hooks are super weak and there isn’t much of a sense of an overarching storyline other than “there is a dragon around”, so I actually took the hook from LMOP (PCs escort wagons down the High Road to Triboar Trail to Phandalin) and put an encounter with the dragon right up front to raise the stakes and make it plain what the big bad is. I had them take on a job in Waterdeep to transfer two large crates containing weapons to Sildar Hallwinter, the Lords’ Alliance man in Phandalin.
I incorporated the story element that Cryovain, the young white dragon that has moved into the area, has done a number on the Orc settlements nearby. So I had the wagon train come to a bridge where there were signs of an ambush- dead bodies and so forth, but all the valuables were left despite all of the food, tools, and survival stuff being taken.
So Orcs ambushed them, and we had a sensational fight on and around the wagons. The horses almost got spooked by the commotion, which would have resulted in the Halfling rogue getting trampled but the Dwarf Cleric managed to get to them and make a successful Animal Handling check. The wizard started to cast Burning Hands on an Orc that had clambered onto his wagon and I really wanted to set that wagon on fire, but he realized that was a terrible idea.
When the Orcs were down to the last another group appeared over the bridge. Then Cryovain showed up, and it was clear that the Orcs knew her and had an apparent axe to grind with her. Cryovain also gave me a chance to show how DANGEROUS she is, wiping out Orcs wholesale.
But the rogue had been smart on the way there and had poked around the crates. He was the only one that knew that each crate contained a ballista. So they busted up the crates and loaded them up. The fighter thought it would be a good idea to set the bolts on fire, so they hit Cryovain with two flaming ballista shots and she flew off. They cheered.
I thought they’d probably be ready to stop since that was about two hours of setup and playtime but they wanted to keep going. So I got them into the town, let them poke around (including letting the Rogue visit his auntie, which was a big deal for him). I described the mayor, Harbin Wester, as the mayor from Jaws and they loved that touch. They had a choice of three quests and a handful of rumor leads, and much to my surprise they took the gnome one.
As written, it’s kind of sparse but there is A LOT of room for DMing it. Which again, is kind of weird for a starter product. If you were new to DMing and didn’t know that for example the map is really just kind of a guideline, it would be a series of pointless rooms and some NPC conversations that don’t really go anywhere. The concept is that the two kings of these rock gnomes have holed up in their chamber and won’t come out. Because a “shapechanger” is loose, and one of the kings had been attacked by a rug. So I mixed it up a bit, I wanted it to be more like The Thing so I had all of the NPCs being really suspicious. I had NPCs that the PCs talked to disappear or turn up dead, causing the gnomes to suspect them. There was one encounter with a female gnome inventor that was firing this automatic crossbow contraption at them- the wizard put Sleep on her, and then the party had a hilarious discussion debating if it was a “bad look” if they left her there.
Of course it turned out that the killer was a Mimic, so they found it in a room full of barrels and it fought like the devil. After they killed it, I decided that one Mimic wasn’t enough so I had one of the other barrels suddenly turn into a purple-blue ooze and slide out the door. So now they were suspicious and paranoid, stabbing any kind of furniture, furnishings, and inanimate objects they could. I really threw them a curveball though when the rogue went to pick a lock on a door and it turned out to be the Mimic- I had intended for it to be a chest in the locked treasure, but that was too good an opportunity to pass up. They tried to lure into these spinning blade traps, but it didn’t follow. They went back and the door was gone.
In the treasury, there was a bunch of gnomish clutter and…a chest. They poked around, the dwarf decided to open it and to show it was safe to the others he sat in it. Another opportunity I couldn’t resist. So yeah, it bit him and the others had a tough time getting him out. But they did, and they went to the kings’ chamber and parlayed, getting a couple of magic items out of it.
It was really a great time – they loved it all and want to do it again so it seems like a total victory.
The Thursday Night Academy. As a brief interlude after finishing our WARHOBO 40K funnel (a mashup of Rogue Trader and DCC), we got the supergroup back together for The Trial of Colonel Killbot! The game is creaky as hell, with a death-by-a-thousand-modifiers vibe, but we can't take superheroes seriously so it ends up being grimly irreverant and hilarious. This time the Terrific Trio of Pool Boy and T & Coco were added to the main group of three for a Supreme Sextet. (Pool Boy can turn into a cloud of chlorine gas; T & Coco are a former child TV star and his gorilla-with-a-saddle sidekick). Meanwhile, the Emperor Undying and his Ashen Hand ninjas were intent on freeing Colonel Killbot—a courthouse scrum that ended with the summary execution of Colonel Killbot at the hands of vigilantes, a ridiculously-high ninja body count, and a crashed Chinook helicopter that was hauling a giant robot. All in all a glorious mess.
D&D 5th Ed.
This is our irregular Sunday game for The Niece—put together ever since her first experience with the game at the hands of godawful neighborhood kids ended in tears. She's now a pro and knows how to have a good—no, great—time with it. I love how DCC does plane-hopping god-hijinks right out of the gate, so taking that cue for the opener of this 3rd level adventure (a punched up Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan from Tales from the Yawning Portal) I had the party "summoned" by a high-level wizard to The Plane of the Final Battle where the Emperor Undying was attempting to activate the machine that will end the Multiverse. (Yeah, that Emperor Undying—a crossover wink that the one overlapping member of both groups appreciated.) So it was all wizards summoning as many weenie 1/1s as they could as fast as they could and shoving them into assault hovercraft while screaming "Go go go!" to ferry them toward the ginormous, sky-eclipsing purple tuning fork that was curdling galaxies above dragons and FA-18s laying down close air support... The party was pulled aside by Krang the Magnificent to board his pan-flute-controlled flying dragon boat for a Hail Mary rear-flank assault mission. There were an inordinate number of natural 20s, as well as at least one one-eyed T-Rex ridden by a mummy.
One of my top ten all-time GenCon experiences was playing in a one-shot V&V game run by Bill Willingham. This was right around the time that his two V&V modules were published, and a couple of years before he started writing and drawing comics like Elementals. We played a classic silver age Avengers line-up (Vison, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, etc.) fighting a team of various Marvel heroes gone bad (Spider-man, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four), inside a space ship hovering over Manhattan. Turned out that our opponents were actually Skrull shapeshifters. The presentation was awesome, with a huge miniature-scale map of the space ship. All the characters were represented by hand-drawn colorful cardboard tokens with head/torso pictures, and the artwork looked like it was all done by V&V game designer Jeff Dee. Most of the players (including myself) were teenagers, and Bill was this gruff older guy who was apparently just 25 at the time. Somehow he reminded me of Bill Murray. I could tell that he found us annoying, but he still did a great job running the game.
It was the local con on the weekend, and to cut a boring story short, I won a copy of Kids On Bikes in a raffle. I had my eye on it, who knows where I became aware of it because I am that green, and in the end it was one of the few things left when my ticket was pulled. So, perfect.
Now I can read the rules and everything and that's fine. I think (hope) our creativity is up to scratch. We live in a town of a few thousand people surrounded by woods, so the setting is not one beyond the realm of experience for them. But, given in will be GMing for them and have zero experience, albeit with not much riding on it, does anyone have any advice? Anything else i should read beforehand to assist? Thanks!
Just keep in mind that you're working together and not against the players.
There’s also podcasts if you prefer to listen. “One Shot” does a good job of highlighting a lot of different systems.
But basically, roleplaying is a conversation. Or “improvised radio theater.” Theater because you’re making up a story, improvised because you don’t know what’s going to happen, and radio because it takes place in the group’s collective imagination rather than being acted out on a stage.
As the GM, your job is to set the stage and guide things along. The players play the heroes of your radio play, you play everything else.
The basic loop of play looks like this:
1. GM describes the situation, asks “what do you want to do?”
2. Players state what they want to do.
3. GM determines how the situation changes as a result of players’ actions.
4. Go to 1.
Determining how the situation changes sometimes, but not always, is where the rules happen. If you ask a player what she wants to do, and she says “I pick up the diary” then you don’t have anyone roll for that. You just say “okay, you have the diary” and go to #1, describe the diary etc. If the player says “I sneak past the guard!” then that is probably worth a roll.
The general rule of thumb is that you call for a roll only when both success and failure are interesting and/or fun. So sneaking past a guard qualifies — you either make it somewhere you aren’t supposed to be (fun!) or you get caught and are now in a pickle and your friends have to make a plan to rescue you (interesting!). If failure is uninteresting then you either have it happen automatically (like picking up the diary) or disallow the attempt altogether. (For the latter I’m thinking of something like a player asking to jump across a 200m chasm.)
But like Charlie says, don’t overthink it. You’re making up a story with your kids and/or friends. The rules are there to make the story spin out in fun and unpredictable ways. But if you can tell a story about what happened to you at work yesterday, you can play an RPG. The rest is just details.
There's a lot of issues with watching Critical Role as it comes off as this ideal way to play, which is frankly damaging. Beyond the fact that it feels as if the actors are putting on a show for the camera, it displays many of the issues with old school D&D that should not be emulated IMO:
-Long winded character backstory that is not utilized by the DM
-Reliance on only pre-plotted content
- The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast
-Shopping for magical items
-A scene in the very first episode about visiting a brothel and rolling Constitution to see how well they had sex
-Most of the players don't make any fictionally-relevant decisions, as much of that is handled exclusively by the DM
-Mercer's DM tip videos are incredibly dated techniques
I don't think watching Critical Role will help you at all if you wish to play something like Kids on Bikes.
I think The Adventure Zone works much better for me, though that's not super special to me either.
jpat wrote: Do we have an ongoing thread about RPGs we "should" be playing? It seems, perhaps naively, to me that this is a Pretty Good Time for RPGs in terms of quality and variety, and I'm curious what people would recommend in various categories.
I've tried a lot of RPGs over the years, usually as the DM, so I would be happy to comment in such a thread. But I don't think that I would tell anybody that they "should" be playing any given RPG. There are some significantly different types of RPGs out there, in terms of mechanics, setting, etc, and the right game for one group could fall completely flat for another group. If people gave some background about their likely gaming group, that might help in terms of recommendations. For example, GURPS is a great system for any setting for wargamers and accountants, while a diceless game like Amber or Lords of Olympus is better for creative types (and oddly enough, IT people) who want to play powerful characters.
Wanted to get a family plus friends game going so I asked if anyone wanted to do the "Dragon campaign," a homebrew, or Ravnica. Only one person had preference, and that was for Ravnica. So we've got a Gruul Centaur Ranger (Guy who asked for Ravnica), A Boros Minotaur Cleric (of the forge, played by my high school DM), Izzet Human Wizard (Bro in law), Rakdos Half Elf Bard (Wife), and "Izzet" Human Rogue (son). The Ravnica book comes with a first adventure that is for any guilds and seems decent enough, but after that I'll be very much open to ideas. So far I think based on their guild choices either the Azorius (The state) or Orzhov (Religion/Bank/crime syndicate) could prove good long term campaign opponents. Since my son is in the game I'm leaning towards Orzhov, since they're Lawful Evil. This party is mostly Chaotic Neutral or Neutral Good. First game is next Friday.