Monday, December 26, 2011

Miniature Mondays: Dwarves


Dwarves


Mighty mead-fuelled masters of mining, monster hunting, and metalcraft,
but don't call them midgets!

You can grab your figs here!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Miniature Mondays: Halflings




Halflings

As edition-diverse as kobolds, these pint-sized adventurers range
from chubby, little foodies to skinny, little river rafters.
But, since my time is limited, I present you with
a culinary priest and a giant-scaling slayer. 


You can grab the figs here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Miniature Mondays: Sorcerers


Sorcerers

Arcane crossbreeds with magic in their blood, bones, and possibly mucus. 

You can grab the figs here. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Miniature Mondays: Monks


Monks

Wooden planks beware! 
These martial artists will tear up any oriental adventure 
with their fists of fury -- and maybe a katana. 

You can grab your figs here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Miniature Mondays: Rangers


Rangers

Braving the woods and wilds, these woodland warriors have no limit to their ranging. 

You can grab your figs here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Miniature Mondays: Druids

Druids

A pair of tree-hugging, hippie types for your woodland drum circles.

You can grab your figs here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Miniature Mondays: Rogues(a.k.a. Thieves)



Rogues (a.k.a. Thieves)

A pair of pilfering pickpockets for your profiteering pursuits. 

You can grab the figs here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Miniature Mondays: Paladins


Paladins

"Lawful good" defenders of the realm, 
and all around buzz-kills to evil doers everywhere. 

You can grab your figs here.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mega Miniature Monday: Monster Mash

MONSTER MASH!


I'm back! Just in time for Halloween, a trio of terror for your holiday hauntings.

You can grab the figs here!


Monday, September 5, 2011

Miniature Mondays: Wizards

Wizards

New job, new city, new game, new delays. 
Sorry about the missed week, 
but hopefully I'm back on track with this week's Miniatures:

A set of supremely superior spellslingers supplying 
supernatural scorching, scalding, and searing for your enjoyment.

You can grab the figs here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Miniature Mondays: Fighters


Fighters

Almost back on track -- only a day late this time. 
Here is a set of armor clad warrior types ready for action.

You can grab the figs here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Miniature Mondays: Bards


Bards

Yeah, I know it's not Monday, but between moving clear cross country,
time zone shifts, lay lines, and other assorted brick-a-brak,
you get your Monday Mini fix on Thursday, so enjoy some bardic action.

You can grab the figs here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Miniature Mondays: Clerics

Clerics
Back in the saddle again.
This week we have a pair of Clerics for your divine dealings.

You can grab the figs here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Delays and what not!

I apologize for the lack of posting. I've just moved back to Chicago, and the last couple weeks have been all about moving across the country. I will return to our regularly scheduled programming soon enough.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Miniatures- Barbarians


So now that you have all these monsters, you're gonna need some PCs to fight them.  
To start it all off here's a pair of barbarians. 

You can grab the figs here. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Z is for Zombie

Z is for Zombie

Out of minions? Not a problem.
Just swing by the local cemetery, and whip yourself up
a batch of the these desiccated dynamos.

You can grab your figs here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cross-Gender Characters Revisited

As I reach the end of the alphabet, I've started looking for new ideas for Monday Miniatures, so I asked for some ideas from my friends as to what they would like to see on my blog, and one of the responses was this:
"I'd like for a revisit on the cross-gender playing (from the 31 January, 2011 post). Why is it when an author pens characters in both genders it is considered normal, but if a player wants to explore a character that happens to have the opposite sex they are looked at funny? People used to show up to local cons wearing shirts that read, "I don't play with guys who play CHICKS". I still get grief from my fellow PFS players who have yet to play with either of my male characters (I have two female characters, 12th & 10th level, and two male characters, 7th & 3rd level). Next character is going to be female (largely because I found a picture I like and imagined the character from there)."


The article he is referring to is "Sizing up the Cattle" in which I discuss warning signs of potential problem players. Since I've written it, I have had several discussions on the topic, and the point which is consistently brought up is my listing cross-gender character choice as an indication of a problem player.


I don't retract my statement. The initial article was not meant to be a hard and fast set of rules to determine the worth, or ability of the player in the long term, but merely an early warning system for potential problems. Think of it as a Tornado Warning, sure you don't have to get into the cellar when you hear the siren, and nine times out of ten its probably a false alarm, but when you find yourself in the land of Oz you'll be kicking yourself for ignoring it. 


I am not opposed to people playing cross-gender characters, but it does require a level of skill and maturity that most players don't possess. Sorry, guys, but it's true. With so many factors that need to be controlled to maintain a stable game, allowing a player of unknown skill level to jump in with a potential game-breaking character does not seem like a smart move.


Now in response to the question posed. 

I believe the issue here is one of play style. PFS(Pathfinder Society) is an organized play society based in the Pathfinder world. From my experience, organized play tends to focus heavily on mechanics and less on role playing. Gender in the pathfinder system has as much impact on mechanics as eye color, which for those of you reaching for your books, is none. So, from the perspective of someone who is playing the game from a mechanical viewpoint, playing an opposing gender is unnecessary, which means you are either doing it because you are a deviant looking to live out your perverse sexual fantasies, or because you want to slow the game down with dreaded role-playing, which may lead to there not being enough time to get all the rewards the module has to offer.

As for why it is so readily acceptable to put on a female voice in fiction and a little unnerving at the game table, well that's because in a work of fiction you aren't having interactions with the female characters through the medium of your buddy Phil. This level of suspension of disbelief is difficult to achieve even when dealing with trained actors, so it is asking a lot of the other players to go along without flinching from time to time.

The rest I would put up to immaturity and the homophobia of those with little to no security in their sexuality who are afraid they may jump over the table and start making out with you because your roleplaying is the closest thing to a woman showing interest in them that they have ever experienced. Sadly, this is one of those things that falls on you to be the bigger person, if your group is uncomfortable with the concept of cross-gender characters then you may be S.O.L. and have to shelve the character till you find a group that isn't so skittish. The needs of the many, yadda, yadda, yadda....Them's the breaks


So GMs, when a player shows up with a cross-gender character, you need to understand what he/she is looking for in his gaming experience and compare that expectation to the game being offered. 


Players, remember to set your expectations to the level of the venue. You wouldn't show up to a game of Battleship and expect an existential journey exploring the futility of war, so don't show up to a module looking for a deep exploration of character. I know first-hand that it is frustrating when your only source of gaming is organized play, but the key is to scratch the itch you can, and keep looking for your game of choice.


Good Gamin'

Monday, July 4, 2011

Y is for Yellow Musk Creeper


Y is for Yellow Musk Creeper

The perfect centerpiece for your dungeon's greenhouse.
No green thumb? No problem, just supply it with a steady stream
of unsuspecting adventurers, and it will do all the work.

Grab your figs here.

Friday, July 1, 2011

He-man and one-shots

I’ve been watching too much He-man recently, (Thanks Netflix!) so, of course, I started scribbling, and those scribbles turned into a bunch of gaming figs resembling the Masters of the Universe. These figs then led me to start contemplating writing a He-Man themed one-shot. And the idea of writing a one shot got me thinking about how much I loathe one-shots.


Okay, loathe may be a bit strong, but they do rank only slightly higher in my book than Play by Post gaming and organized play modules. Personally, I’ve only played in a handful of one-shots that I found enjoyable, and that enjoyment was largely due to the players working with the DM to make the game enjoyable, go fig. But this perfect storm of great players, and a great DM is a rare recipe and one that is easily soured.


From the get-go GMs running one-shots are fighting an uphill battle. The unfortunate truth is that these games require a bit of railroading to turn 4-8 random strangers, with characters they have never seen before, into an adventuring party and still finish in the allotted time. Add in the fact that the players have little need for the usual rewards of adventuring as treasure and xp don’t matter a whole lot when your character’s career ends with the session. This leaves the GM extremely vulnerable to a player who is only there to “win” the game by derailing the story; the player’s equivalent to a TPK, and just as worthy of praise. Oops, I misspoke; replace "praise" with "a swift kick to the windpipe."


So what is a lone GM to do when on the prowl for a new set of players? What are some ways to mitigate the pitfalls of this format of game? What the hell is a one-shot?


I should probably address what a one-shot is and is not with regards to this discussion. When I say "one-shot," I am talking about a game written to be played at a convention or meetup in an alotted time slot (usually 4-6 hours in length) with a group comprised completely or mostly of strangers, using characters you created ahead of time. 


This is not how to run pre-made modules, organized play events, or even one night stand adventures with your pre-existing group.


Now that we know what I’m talking about, what can we do to set our game on a path to success?


Parody and homage


The biggest stumbling block for most one-shots is that the players are expected not only give a crap about the character they are playing, but also to understand how they fit into the world and the group dynamic. The easiest way to get past this is by using characters the players already know. 


Next time you are at a convention, take a look at the list of games and you will notice that 3/4ths of the games offered are either based around TV shows, comics, or a parody of a subculture. This is not an accident, but an evolutionary trait. Games based on pop culture are more approachable, and attract the pre-existing fan base, which leads to players who want to connect to the characters, and your game.


Humor


The one-shots that I personally remember fondly are light-hearted and have a sense of humor to them. When crammed in a room full of sweaty screaming fat beards, it is hard enough to be heard let alone develop a somber and serious mood. Keeping a game light and with an air of humor allows the players and GM to relax a bit and to ignore the occasional interruption or misstep that can occur when people are unfamiliar with a character, system, or GM style. Besides, if you are at a con, odds are good you are either drunk or hung over, which tends to tip the scales to humor by default.


Micro-Character Creation


Most systems require several hours just to generate a character and several additional hours to assemble a cohesive group, which is why pre-generated characters are a must for one-shots. There are systems out there that have boiled character creation down to a few minutes, (QAGS by Hex Games being my all time favorite, which allows players to create characters at game time) but they are extremely rules light, and not eveyone’s cup of tea.


So, what's a GM to do when he wants to run a rules heavy system, but wants to give the players the feeling of ownership of their character? You can do micro-character creation, which is where you stat out the characters as normal, but when it comes to back story you make a list of questions for the players to answer about their character's history, physiology, or psychology, including leading questions that will tie them into the plot of the story.


What is a leading question? A leading is question is where you determine the what, and let the player determine the why. For example, instead of asking a player, “What is your character afraid of?” You would ask, “Why is your character afraid of snakes?” This allows you to insert facts about the character that are required for your story to make sense, but still leave room for the player to create something personal. 


In addition to open back stories, you can save a few points from character creation to beef up areas of the character the player seems to be focusing on. If the player really wants his bartender to be a History major, well then toss those floating points into his history skill. The key is to do most of the work, but leave the finishing touches up to the players.


Like I said when I started, one-shots are not my drug of choice, but they are a necessary evil when you’re looking to expand your stable of players, so hopefully this advice will be the Novocain to your gaming root canal, and you will be back to gaming in the sandbox soon enough.

Good Gamin’

Monday, June 27, 2011

X is for Xorn

X is for Xorn

Swimming through the earth in search of precious gems and metals,
these terra firma tripods are a danger to any treasure horde.

You can grab the figs here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

BONUS FIG! Happy Birthday Bruce!


Since it is Bruce's birthday, I thought I would whip up a quick fig, 
'cause every game could use a little more Bruce. 

You can grab the fig here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

W is for Wight


W is for Wight

When you need someone to take charge of your undead picnic
there is no one better than these negative energy nasties.

You can grab the figs here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dice

The great debate, to dice or not to dice: what is the point? In my opinion, dice are what separate writing a story from playing a game. Both are very enjoyable and worthwhile activities, but if one wishes to engage in a role-playing game dice are a necessity.

Due to my inherent lazy nature, I will be using the term dice as a catch-all for any random system a game uses to determine the outcome of a given action, because that is truly the point of dice: to be random and bring the unexpected into your story. The problems start to come in when you allow the result of the dice to trump the enjoyment of the game. The key is to understand the true function of dice and when and how to use them to enhance your experience, which is not always when the rules tell you to.

Determining direction, not success.

The key thing to remember is that no one controls the dice. Every time you pick them up you are choosing to put the fate of your game in the hands of random chance, which is not a bad thing, it's just not always a good thing. Consider this when designing your encounters. Ask yourself, "How will the game continue if the players fail at the task at hand?" If failing the dice roll would effectively end the session, then you probably shouldn't leave it up to chance.

"So what? Do I let the players succeed at everything just to keep the story moving?"

Not at all, although you can't control the outcome of the dice, you can control the outcome of failure. Encounters shouldn't be pass/fail exams. An encounter is like a fork in the road, passing the test means you get to take the easy path, and failure indicates you will have take the longer potentially more difficult road. Both roads lead to the same location, but one gets you there with less of a cost.

The Joy of Chaos

As the old saying goes, "a plan is just a list of things that never happen," this is what I find enjoyable about gaming. You show up with your prepared story,  your preconceptions of how it will unfold, and then expose it to the random chaos of the players and dice. In the end, you wind up with something completely different than what you were expecting, having to react just like the players to the unexpected, trying to keep the ship afloat. Dice allow this chaos to occur even if you know every move your players are going to make. They keep everyone on their toes, and keep the game from being mired down in the monotony of predictable patterns.

Inspiration

Speaking of monotony, it can be difficult at times for a GM to keep coming up with fresh story ideas, this is another point where dice are a handy tool. Random roll tables have gotten a bad rap at times, as many of us remember the days where entire adventures were determined by comparing the roll of the d100 to a series of lists. 

As I've matured as a gamer, I began to realize the value of the random roll table is that of inspiration, and in a way, a game in itself. Randomly determining the type of creature, plot, terrain, or even weather conditions can be the spark of inspiration on which your story can grow. The key is to keep what you roll no matter how bizarre -- in fact, the more bizarre, the better. Nothing will get your creative juices flowing like having to figure out why there is a swarm of ice demons running around the inside of an active volcano, or how a dragon ended up in a room with a door too small for him to fit through.

When you run a sandbox game you have to contend with the players getting wild hairs up their asses and running off in random directions, most of which you didn't prepare for. Having the ability to generate some random elements can keep your game from grinding to a halt.

So hopefully, you've stopped worrying and learned to love the dice.

Monday, June 13, 2011

V is for Vampire


V is for Vampire

Voracious vein munching vixens from beyond the grave. You can grab your figs here.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Novel Is Not A Movie Is Not A Poem Is Not A Game


As of today, I have read 47 books on screenwriting (just counted them), have a bachelor's degree in film/video production with a concentration in directing/screenwriting, and have written 6 feature length scripts and a television pilot [all on spec :( ]. Throw in my over 20 years experience DMing / GMing/ Storytelling/ Narrating various games of all genres, and I have picked up a trick or two with regards to developing compelling stories and characters. This is not to brag, but merely to preface my esoteric ramblings, and apologize if I start waxing philosophical on the art of story a bit too much.

***Universal Spoiler Alert***
Now a quick warning, in this blog I'm gonna talk about some tricks some screenwriters use to create plot structure and character development, and it will alter the way you watch movies and TV. It's a lot like a magic trick, once you know how it's done you'll never be able to enjoy the trick in same way again. So, if you like your movies the way they are, stop here; otherwise, moving on...
One of the first things you learn is a writer is to determine which medium is best for telling your story. This may seem like a no brainer, but understanding the limitations of the your chosen format can save you from trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
For example, if your story is a tale of radioactive alien dinosaurs blowing up national parks with a few million megatons, you'd rather watch it on the big screen than read the vivid descriptions on your Kindle, so you would starting penning the screenplay. Now, if your story follows a band of stalwart adventurers attempting to return The Muffin Tin of Power to the Bakers of Kraz Mandingo, and along the way they explore sites rich with history legend, encounter nuanced characters, and the whole time dealing with the inner struggle of your protagonist as he copes with the misery of soggy boots. Well, you'd end up with a two hour movie before the protagnoist finished his toast and jam, So you should probably write a novel.

"So, what the hell does this have to do with gaming already?"

Well, just like novels and screenplays have stories that do not work for them, so do RPGs, and identifying whether or not your story will work as a game can save you a lot of heartache and a lot of work.
So what are some of the key elements of the RPG format?
Lack of Protagonist Control

This is the biggest difference between a game and all other formats of storytelling, and that is that the writer(GM) does not control the actions of his characters. Sure you can guide, coax, and cajole the players to send their characters into the deep dark maze, but the ultimate decision of whether or not they do it still lays with them. This is the biggest hurdle most GMs have to contend with, and will be a topic of many of my future posts.
  • Does your story fall apart if the protagonist does not hit every plot point, or takes route B instead of route A?
  • Does your story require a character to take specific actions at the exact right moment?
  • Does your story require you to remove control of the characters from the Players at points for it to continue forward? 
    If so it may not be the best story for a game.

Interactive Audience

The players are a huge part of what makes this format unique, and to forget that is folly. In most common formats the reader/viewer is a passive participant sitting back and taking the story in. This allows the writer to be pedagogical and go on for great length about the marvels of his creation, this is not so in an RPG. 
We've all been there when the GM handed out his 20 page synopsis of his homebrew world as required reading before character creation, or had to sit through an hour long one-man rendition of the fall of the Kingdom of Quizalpoop where we witnessed the GMs various NPCs do the stuff our characters only dream of. A game needs to involve the players.
  • Do you want your players to be interested more in the actions of your kick ass NPCs than in their own characters? 
  • Does your story revolve around the actions of an NPC, who your players just happen to be helping? 
  • Would you rather play in your game than run it?

    If so it may not be the best story for a game.

Open Ended

This one may be a bit more high-falutin, but stories are told to teach us something about the world, this lesson is known as the premise. Simply put, a story can be seen as a question to which the ending supplies the answer. "Can love conquer death?" is a ripe ol' chestnut, and whether or not the protagonist conquers death through love supplies us with the answer and sets the premise of the piece. A "Good" film addresses the premise in each scene, exploring the potential answers to the underlying question, creating a debate whose answer can be seen in the conclusion. With a game's conclusion out of the GMs control, it means the final premise of the story is out of his hands as well. 
  • Do you want to tell a story that confirms your belief system? 
  • Do you want to prove a point? 
  • Do you care whether the opposite side of your argument ends up the victor?

    If so it may not be the best story for a game.
Now, just because your story won't work for a game doesn't mean that it is a bad story, just that you should find another format in which to tell it.

Good Gamin'!