Showing posts from August, 2019


Good friends don't judge you or ask a lot of questions. They help you move the body and never speak of it again. In real life, I believe friends are essential. They provide support, understanding, perspective, help and many other benefits, the most important of which may connection. So how about in RPG's? People think of RPG parties as a group of friends who seek adventure together, probably because in Lord of the Rings , everybody was so loyal and friendly. But in fact, I've very rarely seen that. In fact, in most games I've run or played in, party members are acquaintances of convenience, and often some party members don't like each other. But as play goes on, people often do form bonds, either to other people in the party or to people outside it. Such relationships provide depth to the characters and the story, they provide hooks and assets (or liabilities) for the story, and they provide a more genuine and memorable experience. Here are some of

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 11: "EXAMINE"

"Steal with pride!" is an adage at my current workplace. It doesn't mean that we should illicitly take anything from somebody; rather, it means that if someone at our company has done something that you think might work for you, absolutely take it and use it in your own area. In business-speak, such things get labels like "Best Practices", "Lessons Learned", "Improvements" or "Innovations." And they all mean examining what has that has already been done, and making it your own so that what you do is more effective. Monte Cook Games' Your Best Game Ever  book was created to support this very idea. It takes hundreds of years of combined game experience by his team and his guest writers and condenses it into a consumable book of really good advice for new and experienced gamers, and for both players and GM's. And it's not specific to any just presents general ideas and encourages its readers to take those id

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 10: "FOCUS"

Beyond its mathematical and geological definitions, the word "focus" can mean "to have direction", "provide clarity" and "concentrate", and all three of them are essential to a satisfying RPG experience. As the GM, one of your more important roles is to have a vision of the story you want the players to help tell. From experience, I've found that sandbox games can be a lot of fun, up to a point, but when characters can make literally any choice, with no guidance, and no direction of where they should be going to advance something...they quickly become bored. This is the role of plot hooks, hints, equivocation (aka forced-choices), alignment of the story to player's own goals and other techniques that GM's have picked up over the years. Let the players do what they want, but when they're ready to get moving, give the game the focus they are looking for so that they feel they've accomplished something at the end of the ses


Back in 2016, Monte Cook wrote an essay called Monte Says: A 1 is not a Fumble , in which he says that he doesn't believe in players being punished for rolling a "1." The article was both obvious and controversial. Obvious, because it makes total sense that players' enjoyment of a game should never be penalized because a random number generated occasionally came up with a low value. But it was also controversial because it had been drilled into people that rolling badly had negative effects for the story. Yes, sometimes, a 1 is just a number, but sometimes it's the catalyst for some truly horrible events that follow. I'm going to share some of the greatest (and worst) results that I've seen over the years. The Sure Thing The one that immediately leaps to mind is a failure I had during the D&D Open, at GenCon one year. We had advanced to the third round of three and had made it to the big bad with great efficiency and no fatalities. We knew wha

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 8: "OBSCURE"

I have a rule when I go to GenCon. I always play at least one game I've never played before. My only requirement is that the game is listed as "no prior experience required" and that the scenario itself sounds fun. Of course, this rule has let me play some very popular systems that I've heard about but never had a chance to play.  I finally got around to playing  FATE , last year, with a great game about kids saving Halloween. It's a simple and open game system that adapts well to various genres; I played Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) by Goodman Games, which is a favorite of my friend James of Living4Crits  blog. It's old school gaming, with some serious camp during the 0-level "funnel". I also got to try  Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) which is an incredibly setting-heavy RPG set in a version of ancient Japan. And I've really enjoyed each of those games...and can understand why they are so popular. But my best GenCon memories traditionally


Today, in honor of the word "Familiar" I begin with hard-won gamer advice, learned from repeating the same mistake at many tables: Don't name your character's pets Pets, pack animals and familiars are made of blackboxinite--the same indestructible material that survives plane crashes. Total Party Kill? Disintegrated? Crushed "Babe Ruth" style by a giant? Doesn't matter, your pet will survive the encounter and come out still holding a bunch of your stuff. Pets are also infinitely transportable. Even if you are 1200 feet and 7 climbing checks from the surface. Your giant lava lizard familiar is always there to give you the +2 "breathing through your eyelids" bonus. But they do have one flaw: They become vulnerable if your GM notices that they are there. You pet may be unhurt while you barely survive a direct blast of black dragon acid breath, but remind the GM that you get a +2 to your dex save, because you have a mouse familiar, and sud

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 6: "ANCIENT"

Numenera is set on Earth approximately one billion years in the future. The setting is called "The Ninth World" due to the fact that eight civilizations have risen and fallen prior to the current era. - Numenera Wikipedia article , originally from the Transmissions from the Ninth World podcast, about Monte Cook Games '   Numenera game. In my post on Space, yesterday, I described an area in which I have a mental block and how I have trouble being creative when doing things in that genre. Today's post is just the opposite. Today, I'm speaking about the word "Ancient" and how figuring what came before, and how things got to be the way they are today is one of my favorite ways to be creative. When I write about my current world, I am often nervous about making big changes. If, for example, two of my countries go to war, I have to consider what lead up to it and was that telegraphed in the stories the characters experienced. What does the war do to e

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 5: "SPACE"

“The Total Perspective Vortex derives its picture of the whole Universe on the principle of extrapolated matter analyses. To explain — since every piece of matter in the Universe is in some way affected by every other piece of matter in the Universe, it is in theory possible to extrapolate the whole of creation — every sun, every planet, their orbits, their composition and their economic and social history from, say, one small piece of fairy cake. The man who invented the Total Perspective Vortex did so basically in order to annoy his wife.” - Douglas Adams The Restaurant at the End of the Universe I've always been a big science fiction fan. I watched reruns of Star Trek religiously growing up, and of course, I've seen Star Wars about 50 times. I watched the Buck Rogers TV show and the weird-but-fun Flash Gordon movie. I've read classic sci-fi, and modern. I've thought about how ion drives might work, and how diving into a planet to get acceleration wouldn't work

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 4: "SHARE"

One of the best tools that I've found for encouraging character development is vignettes--very short stories of 1 to a few pages that address one specific element of the character. I first learned of the concept when I was playing Amber: Diceless RPG by Erick Wujcik of Phage Press . Characters were built with a certain number of points, and you had the ability to gain a few bonus points by agreeing to write stories or summaries about your character. The stories I wrote were about the character's background, her successes and failures, the hobbies that she had growing up, and incidents that helped make her who she was today. When I wrote a summary, it was exclusively from her perspective (as is the style for Amber, especially.) These techniques helped me in two ways: She got a background. I actually had thoughts about what she was good at and why. What skills she had that might not be obvious. What she was afraid of due to problems in the past or what she might be over

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 3: "ENGAGE"

While D&D 4th edition wasn't the favorite of many people, I truly believe that it had one of the greatest DM guides of all time. It had so many practical tips, not just for running 4e itself, but legitimately good tips for just being a GM. One of the topics I remember most clearly was a section about engaging different types of people at your table. This is such an overlooked aspect of games, and I remember being impressed that they included it as an explicit topic. RPGs, at their heart, are about collaborative storytelling, which means that having everybody engaged in the story is essential. Here is what I've done over the years, to keep people engaged. Ensure the story is something people want to be playing. For a campaign, I find out what kind of game people *want* to play. The concept of Character Arcs, from Monte Cook Games , is a great boon to this, as it causes players to make their goals not just known but a core part of the game. But even without, players oft

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 2: "UNIQUE"

How do you catch a unique rabbit? Unique up on it. How do you catch a tame rabbit? Tame way. The theme of this year's RPGaDay event is a list of single words which each writer can take in any direction they wish. The elementary school joke above, a favorite of my friend Ricki, emphasizes how varied a word like "unique" can be. To me, this meant talking about the most innovative, creative, out of the box and genuinely fun games I've played in. And despite the high expectations I 've set, I have to give this to a bizarre little 2-hour game called Advanced Dimensional Green Ninja-Educational Preparatory Super-Elementary Fortress 555, or in the GenCon game catalog   ADGNEPSEF555. The game's theme is "That greatest TV show you remember watching" and all characters are elementary school students who are part of the show. It takes virtually any number of players, and players are absolutely any age (one nine-year-old was there for her ninth c

#RPGaDAY 2019 - DAY 1: "FIRST"

#RPGaDay 2019 Day 1 - "First" Preface Ramblings You know that feeling when an important date is coming up, and suddenly you look at your calendar and realize that the date has shot by? That's me with this year's #RPGaDay essay exercise. Between GenCon, and the workload that hits after I get back from it, it was August 9th before I realized it was even August and not only had I not written anything but I hadn't even figured out a hosting platform for my essays. With the death of GPlus, I needed a new platform that was 1)Open 2)Linkable 3)Gave me the tools to organize my content. As I was walking downstairs this morning, I realized that I had been wanting to start an RPG-related gaming blog and that blogger would be the perfect platform for my humble needs. So a few clicks later, and here I am, ready to share my thoughts on a variety of writing prompts and self-directed essays. "First" My "First" is from August 1978, when my mother s

Welcome To Dice Deliberations

My name is Greg and I've been playing Role Playing Games for 40 years, and enjoy sharing and hearing the stories that arise from the game table. This site was originally created to serve as a posting location for Autocratik's #RPGaDAY blog entries, but I have several other projects that may make their way onto the site. Plus, random events from my games and/or reports from events I attend will likely make their way onto the site. So why the title? My favorite essay is one on the significance of dice, plus I have the normal absurd collection of random, specialized and set dice. To me, dice are the centerpiece of any gaming table and are a synecdoche for RPGs in general. Also, I love discussing and debating games, systems, rules, companies, art, playing styles and everything else associated with the collaborative storytelling art that is gaming. I invite you to read, enjoy and comment. I run an open and safe game table and hope that everybody has a great time while they&#