May 162012
 
The Suspension Bridge of Disbelief

Thanks to flickr user DaveOnFlickr! CC BY-SA 2.0

A few weeks ago, a commenter lamented that I didn’t give specific examples when it comes to the suspension of disbelief, breaking it, and potentially getting it back. I aim to misbehave please, and thus I’ll try to expand upon that idea a bit more. Here are some sure-fire ways to break the suspension of disbelief and rip your players out of the story:

 

Clunky Mechanics

Ultimately, they are called role-playing games, and there have to be some rules otherwise it’s just shared storytelling (nothing wrong with that, either). When there are rules, especially rules which take a lot of time to play out, that are difficult to understand, don’t really mesh with game very well, or are more tedious than actually fun, you run the risk of pulling back the curtain on the fantasy world you’ve delicately set up. There are many examples of crappy rules, but one that immediately springs to mind is the grappling system from D&D 3.5.

Now, grappling is a big part of 3.5 D&D. Many monsters do it, and they do it very well. It’s difficult for a seasoned player to create a character that doesn’t have some way of escaping from a grapple. However, the rules are quite horrible:

1. Initiate the grapple by moving into your opponent’s square.

2. They make an attack of opportunity. If they hit and deal damage, you fail to grapple.

3. Make a touch attack to see if you can “grab” them.

4. Make opposed grapple checks to see if you can actually “grapple” them.

You could argue that the whole system of attacks of opportunity is clunky and breaks the SoD, and I wouldn’t fight you too much. I think they make sense (let your guard down, get attacked) but sometimes it seems like it would have just been better to give you an AC debuff instead. Whatever. The problem with grapple, for me, always came around step 3 and 4. You have to make two checks, one to see if you can even be in a position to grab your opponent, and then another to see, ostensibly, if you can hold on.

I don’t know why this couldn’t be handled with one check. The reason for the above rules makes sense (grab, then grapple), but ultimately it pulled my players out of the game because everyone always seemed to forget there was a touch attack involved, then a grapple check, and then you didn’t really even do anything that round, instead you had to wait until next round when you had to make another grapple check to maybe do something to your opponent (like stab him with a dagger or bite his face off). Suffice to say, grappling was extremely clunky, and what exactly you could do while you were in a grapple (cast spell? use a weapon? move the grapplers?) was constantly a question.

A good rule of thumb here is that if you have to constantly reference the rule from the rulebook, you’re breaking the suspension of disbelief; if you have to step out of character to look through the rulebook for what you’re able to do, that sucks and it has brought you out of the game. You stop visualizing what your character is doing to that orc and go elsewhere.

Pathfinder made it a bit better (took away the opposed rolls), but not much.

Continue reading »

About Nick

Nick is an inquisitive type, never satisfied with what he reads in a book.

May 162012
 

So you’re looking for something new to play? Maybe a nice addition to a system you’re already familiar with or something that’s totally new to you? I’ve got two things to say about that.

First, go grab the Wayne Foundation Charity RPG Pack while you still can (only available until the 18th of this month!) It’s $25 and you get $235 worth of stuff. You can’t beat that with a stick.

Second, here’s a bunch of awesome games that are 20% off. Hit up the links to see them at DriveThruRPG and then when you check out, use the code DriveThruApril (Yes, we know it’s a month out of date in verbiage, but it’s the correct code, I assure you).

These offers are good until June 14th, so take advantage of them!

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

May 112012
 

The latest Aruneus PDF has hit the streets! The Gods of Aruneus is available as of today, for $1.00 at Drive Thru RPG.

Aruneus is a source book for the Pathfinder Role Playing Game detailing the world, politics, and lives of those living in a high fantasy world one hundred years after a cataclysmic zombie apocalypse.

Aruneus is a new world for use with the Pathfinder Role Playing Game system. 100 years past, Aruneus experienced an apocalyptic event. Starting in a small village, a family infected by a strange sickness died, only to rise again several days later. Within weeks hordes of undead were roaming the Human empires, ravaging any warm blooded creature that fell in to their grasp. Aruneus was devastated – losing in a few years over 10 million sentient beings.

After 100 years of fending off a complete collapse, the sentient races are rebuilding their societies and for the first time there is hope that the undead menace can be destroyed and life given a chance to flourish again.

The Gods of Aruneus gives the divine backdrop in which the zombie apocalypse was formed. Have the gods abandoned this world?

  • Six gods
  • Six new Domains
  • A new threat for the world of Aruneus

You’ll find 10 pages of new material for use in your Aruneus campaign, or in any Pathfinder or d20/OGL game. You’ll also find a new, tougher class of zombie which not only turns humans, but other races as well!

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

Apr 102012
 

 

image courtesy openDemocracy at Flickr

Last week my local gaming group finished up the Kingmaker Adventure Path from Paizo. We started the campaign very near Gen Con 2010 and just finished last week. I was the GM for the campaign as it was my turn in the GM’s chair. The campaign was certainly not without its challenges, both in character and purely from the getting the group together perspective.

This was one of the longer-term campaigns our group has completed and the first Adventure Path we have completed. It was a fun campaign and I think the group had a fairly positive feel about the experience.

This post is a reflection on the campaign from the GM’s chair touching a little bit on the out of game factors to a successful long term campaign and from the in game perspective.

The Meta

As I noted above, we started this campaign right around Gen Con 2010 and just finished last week for a total of about 19 months from start to finish. During the course of play we did have a couple of extended scheduling issues.

The first was an event at home that necessitated a gap in play where I could not GM. During this time the other major GM in the group stepped up and ran us through a mini-campaign arc of Star Wars. This Kingmaker sabbatical allowed me the time from GMing to focus on the more important issue I had going on at the moment. Luckily the other GM in our group was able to keep the group with some momentum by running another game at this time frame.

The second extended break which lasted about five weeks ironically enough happened just before the finale of the sixth book. It did not have a single significant event but truly was a set of continuous scheduling difficulties between various group members. In fact for the last session we were actually short one player, but with another on vacation this week we as a group felt it best to simply continue forward rather than lose more momentum.

Despite these two scheduling issues we were still able to take the campaign to its completion. I attribute a lot of that to our group being a good set of friends who are all very patient. Each is aware that scheduling issues and other matters sometimes surface and we as a group just roll with them. That is a huge factor in the success of any long-term campaign in my opinion.

Having another GM within the group to help keep the group gaming when I had the first extended absence was also quite helpful. It helped keep the game on everyone’s schedule and keep things fun instead of simply missing session after session when I needed the sabbatical.

The Campaign

The Kingmaker campaign was a lot of fun, though not without its challenges. One of the early challenges was the small number of encounters per day aspect of Kingmaker. During exploration it was frequently the case that the players would only face a single encounter, maybe two if they had a random encounter as well. This allowed the characters to use the best of their resources in most combats as they did not have as much motivation to hold back a little. This seemed to make a lot of the encounters relatively easy. There are several mini-dungeons in the AP and those were the more fun sessions for me. The party seemed more challenged and the fights seemed more interesting.

A lot of people will say use the random encounters more to keep this one encounter per day from being an issue. That works when used occasionally, but it just didn’t feel right to repeatedly throw random encounters simply to scale up the daily challenge. I simply decided that letting the characters be heroes on a regular basis was not a major issue.

My other recommendation for GMs running Kingmaker is to read all six of them well ahead of time before running the campaign. Several people find fault with book six because it seems to come from out of nowhere. If you know what is in book six it makes it much easier to foreshadow certain events and make sure book six fits in a little better. I think this was one of my stronger points of the campaign, making sure that book six was adequately foreshadowed so it didn’t seem so out of left field. In fact book six was my favorite one to run out the whole AP. It really helped make up for the single encounter per day issue noted above.

Now one of my shortcomings for the campaign was not developing the NPCs thoroughly enough. Kingmaker is quite sandboxy and ripe for the creation of interesting and fun NPCs. I dropped the ball here and too many of my NPCs felt like cardboard cutouts. I am taking this as an opportunity to improve my GMing for the next campaign though and learning to put more time in NPC development to add that layer of depth to the campaign. So if you are running or planning to run Kingmaker, make sure you have a good method of building and creating NPCs with some depth. I think it will really add to your campaign.

The group I ran for did do the Kingdom building. Only one player really handled the Kingdom side of things and a lot of the building was done outside of our face-to-face sessions and done on the message forums we use between sessions. It worked well for us and let them build a kingdom without necessarily consuming face-to-face game time. If your group does not seem to interested in the Kingdom building portion of the AP, I would encourage you to use the Kingdom in the Background rules and not feel pressured to make your players tackle a portion of the AP they have little interest in doing.

Wrap Up

The Kingmaker was a fun time for our group. Here I have tried to outline some of things that contributed to the campaign’s success – both at and away from the game table. Several of these thoughts could easily be applied to your own long-term campaign, whether it be a published module or a home brew.

What have you found to be keys to your long-term campaign’s success? Downfalls?

About Jeffrey

I am a long time RPG gamer with a heavy slant towards fantasy RPGs. I am currently running and playing Pathfinder. When I am not keeping computers running, tending chickens, playing games or out for a run, I write about RPGs. You can follow me on Twitter or see more from me at The Iron Tavern.

Mar 062012
 

 

I have noticed a trend in my gaming habits over the many years. As a system starts to release more rules supplements I slowly begin to lose interest in that system or at the very least begin to feel overwhelmed at the number of options. With the D&D genre as an example and a touch of Pathfinder thrown in my gaming pattern highlights this trend.

The Sea Grows Deeper

I stuck with 1st Edition D&D right up until the 2nd Edition of Advanced D&D came out. I played that during high school and early college and then the options increased with the release of numerous “splat” books. Some of them were actually pretty fun and did offer interesting options, but as time went on the sheer number of options became overwhelming. Coupled with other life events I took a break from RPG gaming.

I came back with the release of D&D 3.5, yes, I skipped D&D 3.0. D&D 3.5 was great fun. It scratched all the right itches. I really liked the flexibility and felt like I had the tools at my disposal with the class system, skill system, skill resolution and feats. The core books provided everything I needed. I even bought into some of the Complete series of books as well, though that did signal the start of option creep to me as well. Eventually as more option books and rule supplements were released I began to lose interest with D&D 3.5 as well.

I took a much shorter break from RPGs during the awkward 3.5 to 4e phase, made even easier as the 4e rule set just did not attract me to that release. When I sought to come back to the RPG table it was with Pathfinder. At the time there was only the core rulebook and Bestiary in the Pathfinder rule system. It was great – I was back to a core set of rules, there weren’t hundreds upon hundreds of options to choose from. It felt safe and the game felt less about the rules and options and more about playing the game. I really enjoyed my early days of Pathfinder gaming.

Next the Advanced Player’s Guide was released. I also enjoyed this book, it added just the right amount of options and choices in my opinion. A very solid product offering and I easily put it in with my core release assumption of the Pathfinder System.

Now it seems Paizo has started with the unrelenting release of rule supplements with the Ultimate series of books and the even more recently announced book with 30 new prestige classes due in the upcoming year. So once again I find myself trying to stay afloat in a sea of feats, classes, options, archetypes, spells and more. And once again I find myself intrigued by other systems as my life raft to regroup and refocus.

I think there are two seats at the table to look at the amount of options, that of the player and that of the GM. Let’s take a closer look from these two seats through the Pathfinder lense.

Continue reading »

About Jeffrey

I am a long time RPG gamer with a heavy slant towards fantasy RPGs. I am currently running and playing Pathfinder. When I am not keeping computers running, tending chickens, playing games or out for a run, I write about RPGs. You can follow me on Twitter or see more from me at The Iron Tavern.

Mar 012012
 

A rough from Aruneus module 1

With my shoulder finally cooperating again (I was knocked out of action for a bit of the old major surgery) I’m finally able to get back into writing, editing and layout.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been taking stock of everything I have written for the Aruneus project, and everything that still needs to be done.

I’ve added about 2000 words and done a lot of compiling, editing and moving around. I’m slowly being able to put more hours into this, which is a good thing. I want to get back on track and finish this first sourcebook as quickly as possible.

I’ve now got a bit of experience in doing print on demand as well, which will make layout and optimization of this book a whole heck of a lot easier (and faster).

I’m starting to get the last of the artwork I need to finish! I’ve made the decision that once Tim delivers the rest of the artwork he’s got on order, I’ll be using stock art I’ve already purchased to fill out the rest of the book where needed. I already have this on hand, and while it won’t be created on spec, it’s here already.

I’ve included an unfinished piece that Tim’s currently working on for the 1st module, because I like showing off new artwork and you all deserve to see some progress on this project! Note that this is an unfinished work and it will look a lot more polished by the time Tim’s done with it.

About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

Feb 062012
 

Proprietary cases are a great way to give your minis the love that they deserve, but they can overkill tabletop RPGs. Here’s a quick and dirty way to keep them safe, while keeping your budget under $10

About Graham Williams

As a DM I run a table bi-weekly for The Møtlëy Créw, the baddest bunch of heroes to ever toss dice in the Nentir Vale. I’m a platform-agnostic kinda guy, so I’m just as happy to throw down with 4e, Pathfinder, and any other system wherein you’d care to roll the bones. Combat is important, but RP is rewarded at my table.

Jan 242012
 

 

Last week I wrote about getting behind the screen with Pathfinder. The article served as an introduction to getting started running Pathfinder games for someone new to RPGs or just the Pathfinder system. This week I am going to take a look at some of the tools to help run or play in a Pathfinder game. Several of these have a more GM’s point of view focus, but several will be quite useful for players as well.

Character Generators

In this era, everyone always likes an electronic character generator. Character generators make generating a character much faster and often lead to more accurate characters in the end. I know they help keep me from overlooking small things during the process that I seem to have a habit of forgetting.

The first one we will look at is the Venture Captain Online Character Generator. This generator is web based and free. It is still in beta and unfortunately only supports basic character generation at the moment. Advanced Player’s Guide content has not been added yet. At the moment the developer is working to make it easier to manage on the backend to facilitate easier adding of materials to web application. It can be quite handy in a pinch though and well worth keeping an eye on as development continues.

The next generator receives mention on the Paizo forums often enough to warrant mentioning here. It is a pay for (demo mode available) Excel based generator called The Only Sheet. It has a one-time pay option or a subscription option which includes updates for one year at a time. It only runs on Windows systems according to their site. They are continually adding content based on their website. For people that prefer an Excel based format, this sheet might hold some promise.

Continue reading »

About Jeffrey

I am a long time RPG gamer with a heavy slant towards fantasy RPGs. I am currently running and playing Pathfinder. When I am not keeping computers running, tending chickens, playing games or out for a run, I write about RPGs. You can follow me on Twitter or see more from me at The Iron Tavern.