Archive for the ‘Planning & Preparation’ Category

Throw Me A Life-line: A Character Background Planning Tool

When I was a child, I knew three of my grandparents well. My paternal grandfather and namesake, however, I have no memory of ever meeting; he died before I was born, he was only ever a photograph on the wall. I was thinking about that, and about how my experience of family was not adequately […]

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Encampments and other In-Character Opportunities

When I was starting the original Fumanor (D&D 3.x) campaign, I tried to get the players to establish the sort of routines that would come naturally in real life. You see this sort of thing in Fantasy novels all the time and it’s a great way for personalities to manifest and a useful tool for […]

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Ask The GMs: A Target With Warp Drive: Maps and Minis for Sci-Fi

This is the third of these Ask-The-GMs that I’m tackling without recourse to my usual allies and fellow-GMs. Battlemats, maps, and tiles all have a valuable role to play in creating game atmosphere and letting people get on with play. The old adage states that a picture is worth a thousand words; an appropriate terrain […]

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A Palpable Difference: 14 Points of Adventure Distinctiveness

I spent most of the weekend working on the next adventure in the Zenith-3 campaign. While this adventure mines territory that will be familiar to my players, it should not feel at all repetitive to them except in the very broad conceptual strokes, and that’s because I make an effort to make each plot different […]

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Engagement vs Involvement: The forgotten balance

Every player, and more importantly, every PC, who is participating in an RPG is a member of a team. That team can be constructed to form an idealized “machine” if the players collaborate on their character designs, but more normally, things are looser. At best, you have the GM constructing a team model in which […]

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Fun in all the right places

This article was inspired by a question raised on twitter by Kevin Mason @jackmonkeygames, or more specifically, my response to the question: Q: What’s Your Best Tip for creating a memorable character? A: Enjoy the process of creating the character. That touched on a thought that’s been tickling around the back of my head for […]

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When Genres Collide: Using Non-Genre Sources

Some of the most fun that I’ve ever had as a GM was creating that down-elevator sensation in the stomach-pits of my players by taking an idea derived from one genre and importing it into another. It’s not easy to do well, but I’ve figured out at least some of the ground rules to success, […]

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Not Like My Tribe – Sophisticated Primitives, Part 2

In Part 1 (make sure you have read it before continuing) I made reference to a map of Australian Aboriginal Languages which contrasted so strongly with the media stereotyping of these peoples as a single collective population that it was revelatory and inspirational. I meant to provide a link to that map, but ran out […]

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Not Like My Tribe – Sophisticated Primitives, Part 1

A lot of people seem to have the opinion that Primitive is the same thing as Simple. While I would hope that most GMs are better educated than this, that knowledge doesn’t seem to translate into their depictions of primitive societies within their games. Most Orcs, for example, are treated as being cookie-cutter representatives of […]

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In The Footsteps Of Footprints: how to document game events

As part of the “interview” by Tracey Snow back in Campaign Mastery’s 750th-post celebration (actually constructed from a series of emails back-and-forth), I was ‘asked’ the question, Is there an article where you discuss how you run a session and track information while you’re at the table? Do you use a computer at the table […]

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The Gilligan Tools for better characterization

I was reading an article the other week about a fan theory regarding Gilligan’s Island – well, actually, it’s more like two related theories, one of which is partially contingent on the other. As I was musing (and chuckling, I must admit), the thought occurred to me that with a little tweaking, one of those […]

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An Amazing Ancestry

I’m a regular viewer of the TV show “Who Do You Think You Are?”. We in Australia are in the privileged position of seeing not only our own domestic series, but also the US and UK series of this show. For those who have never watched it, the show traces the ancestry of a celebrity […]

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