July 7, 2014

100th Post


For my 100th post, I figured I'd do a "clip show" -- a retrospective on all 99 posts that came before.  I went back and looked at every single one.  I made sure to yellow-highlight my favorites, and I made red notes to give myself assignments to revise or rewrite old articles.

This also serves as an annotated index of the first 100 posts on this blog.

2012 (32 posts)


  1. The Case for Hooks.  My first post.  It's due for a rewrite (along with Story Structure and Hooks).  I'm surprised how basic this idea is, yet how hard it is for new GMs to realize how important hooks are.
  2. Sowing Hooks.  This post definitely deserves a rewrite.  It's a new idea for character creation for campaigns, where the GM asks the players to include certain hooks in their characters.  Who has what hooks doesn't matter.
  3. Story Structure and Hooks.  When I revise the Case for Hooks, I ought to roll this one in.  It's about how hooks work in different campaign structures.
  4. Character Driven Storylines.  This is about character backgrounds and how to make them fit. It ties into the other hook posts, and may be a good frame for them all, as a series when I revise them. 
  5. The Pitch.  This is one of my favorite articles.  The campaign pitch is very important.  I have strong opinions about it.
  6. Flaws: the Great World of Darkness Innovation.  Here I discuss mechanics that allow the players to choose to fail, without feeling like failures or being seen as knuckleheads.  It's very important in a role-playing game!  Inspiration and Flaws may be the greatest innovation in 5th edition D&D nobody's talking about.
  7. Playtesting Next.  A session report after running a D&D Next playtest session.  I decided not to do a lot of these.
  8. Spicy Character Classes.  After making a Pathfinder character, I was inspired to talk about character classes actually adding plot to the game.  I just had a talk a few weeks ago with that DM about item crafting and character class and how the two combine to create awesome plot hooks.  This post rambles too much.  I've gotten better at blog writing since then, but it may not deserve a rewrite.
  9. Level One.  Exploration of the concept of "level one" in fantasy fiction and tabletop RPGs.  Actually a very entertaining article in retrospect.  It deserves a rewrite if only to clean it up and shorten it.
  10. What I'm Up To.  I don't write a lot of posts like this anymore.  Good thing - I don't think anyone cares!
  11. Giving Back.  Once you've done a hobby for 10 years, you should do something to mentor new people in it or advance it in some way.  Even if that's just another GM blog.
  12. I Heart Metagaming. I love metagaming.  You should too.  I'm not sure this is really GM advice or just general hobby politics.  
  13. Your Title.  In case you're wondering why I always say "GM" instead of "Keeper" or "Referee" or "DM" or whatever title a particular game uses.
  14. Throw Me a Pitch.  I was naive enough to think I could drum up some interactive discussion in comments.  That's what twitter is for!
  15. Running Social Scenes.  Ever wonder why there are skills like Diplomacy and Etiquette in RPGs?  Why do we use system in them at all?  How can you maximize the benefits of using system in them so it's not a needless intrusion?
  16. VaCay.  Where I go on vacation and give you a guest post I did on another blog.  See it here.
  17. Adventure Style LARP.  A basic piece on what that is.  It's one of my favorites.
  18. Elysium Style LARP.  A basic piece on what that is.  It's one of my favorites.
  19. Example of GMs and GNS.  In which I discuss GNS theory (Ron Edwards) from the GM's perspective.  You should be familiar with GNS theory.  It's very useful as a frame for discussing what you like in RPGs.
  20. PATV on Game Theory.  This is a discussion of the Extra Credits episode on aesthetics of play and MDA.  This needs a rewrite, because of the blogger format changes.
  21. Playtesting Asylum.  Another playtest report.  This for a game still in development now as I write this summary!
  22. Man vs. Nature.  A discussion of using impersonal conflict in RPGs.  Pretty useful and totally deserving of a rewrite if I can think of a better way to present the idea.
  23. Format.  A discussion of the logistics of running a game.  I forgot about this one.  It needs revision because of the blogger format update.
  24. Food.  How do you handle food at the table?
  25. Slow the Pace.  This is when I went from twice a week to once.  It was more realistic for me.  
  26. Cut to the Chase.  Also about pace!  But this time, pace in your game.  "The players know what they need to do, but they see a lack of urgency from the GM as a suggestion that there is more they need to do to prepare, more that can be done here and now..."  so cut to the case!
  27. Resource Management in RPGs.  This is almost a game design piece, not a game-running piece.
  28. House Rules.  Look!  It's actually a listicle!  I should do a "Top 5 House Rules" post.
  29. MET Revision.  A LARP post about a heavily house ruled Mind's Eye Theater game I ran once.
  30. The Maltese Falcon.  I recall I had just read the book...  This article uses that story to demonstrate pacing and internal story hooks (increasing the stakes), but goes on a few tangents.  It deserves a rewrite.
  31. Conceptual White Space.  This post is about how to color in the white space of your setting without actually writing a gazetteer and almanac.  I should go back to it and turn the tips at the end into some kind of listicle.
  32. The Scout Motto.  Here I confess to enjoying (some kinds of) prep.


2013 (49 posts)


  1. Happy New Year.  My 2013 New Year's Resolutions.  I should check back to see if I actually kept them!
  2. Try Something New.  I shared some news, but mostly talked about the idea of contingency envelopes in LARP - a useful tool.
  3. LARP Prep.  My manifesto on LARP prep.  You can get away running a tabletop game on improv and a 3x5 card.  You can't do that with LARP.
  4. Conflict Resolution Options.  Here I outline different ways to design a conflict.  This is an earlier take on my latest post on conflict.  My ideas are evolving.
  5. GMing Sim Play - Scaffolds and Boundaries.  The main idea here is what a sim scene looks like from the GM chair and how you can prep for it to make it run smoother.
  6. Risk in Game Design.  I contributed my definition of risk in RPGs to a game design blog (see it here).  I still define a risk as a "consequential decision based on incomplete information."
  7. World Building.  I don't feel like a lot of world building is necessary. I'm not a "no myth" GM by any stretch, but I prefer just in time design to just in case design.
  8. Golden Rule Chicken.  Sometimes players try to get power beyond their own means to cope with, were it used against them.  It's one of my favorite posts.
  9. Combat Resolution.  Another post in the evolution of my thinking on how to create more interesting fantasy RPG encounter-level conflicts.
  10. Optional Rules.  Venting about 5th edition D&D design.  When the 5e DMG comes out, we'll see if my venting was justified.
  11. Re-Blogging: Broadened Focus.  I meander around the idea of point-build games and how players rarely use skills that another PC has at a higher rating.  
  12. The Fifteen Minute Workday.  I really delved into the problem of the fifteen minute workday, and suggested a lot of solutions for GMs.  Since 5th edition D&D is out now, and spell slots are back, I may need to dust this off and revise it!
  13. Splitting the Party.  This is one of my favorite posts, and also one of the posts I should rewrite for clarity and readability.  
  14. Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Rewards.  In which I talk about an Extra Credits episode.
  15. Directly Applicable.  I used to be naive enough to think people would come on my blog and start a discussion in comments.  Ha!  One day...  one day...
  16. MEM.  This is one of my favorite posts, in which I talk about using an ensemble cast of characters for horror games, so the GM can kill, maim, and drive them mad without disrupting the continuity of the story.
  17. Modulating Interest.  Based on an Extra Credits episode, I discuss the different player activities used in different kinds of RPG scenes, and use the Extra Credits piece to urge GMs to change up scene types.  I need to revise this and make it one of my favorites.
  18. Initiative Tents.  If you're not using these in a tactical combat RPG, you're missing out!
  19. It's a Mystery!  Here I discuss three kinds of mystery story structures in RPGs. Yes, there are at least three.  The "hard way" is one of my favorite story frames and I need to write a new article to focus on it on its own.  I should also write a full article on the clue chase.
  20. God Machine Chronicle System Review.  This is sadly one of the most popular links to my blog, and one of the weakest examples of my writing.  I should rewrite it.
  21. Morale, Pursuit and Evasion.  In God Machine Chronicle, there's a concede option in combat (Fate does it better, FYI).  D&D used to have an "evasion" rule.  I pull some historical examples of alternate combat resolution in D&D.
  22. Building Encounters Angry DM Style.  Like me, the Angry DM advocates more interesting conflicts in fantasy RPG encounters.  I discuss his excellent method.
  23. The Horror-Hunter Ladder.  This is a flip term for mood and genre in your campaign.  This is one of my favorite articles, but it needs some formatting help with the new blogger layout.
  24. AdSense.  I turned AdSense on in May 2013.  I haven't even made five bucks.  Should I just turn it off?
  25. The Pick Two House Rule.  A house rule for XP in point-build RPG systems (like Gumshoe, World of Darkness, Cyberpunk 2020, etc.) that actually allows story perks as XP rewards without unbalancing your game!
  26. The Five Minute Workday.  Links to two game designers on the problem.  Naturally the less known one with the actual statistics degree has the better analysis.
  27. Hiatus.  Just FYI, because of my work, I will always have a hiatus in late June and early July.
  28. Taking Advantage of Levels.  I actually like class/level systems.  Here's how to make the most of them!  This is a favorite post of mine.
  29. Wandering Monsters.  I am not a fan of wandering monsters. I describe how to use your game's story to serve the same benefits as wandering monsters are supposed to provide.
  30. Wandering Monsters, Addendum.  GM blogger Sly Flourish discussed wandering monsters, too.  I had to incorporate that.
  31. Easily Replacing 4e Combats with Skill Challenges.  First, it's a favorite. Second, it's a useful tool.  Third, it relates to my ongoing quest to make conflicts that don't end in a pile of corpses.  Fourth, it helps you learn how to use 4e skill challenges -- something the designers failed to do.  
  32. Protagonists Always Seem to Win.  This is a go-to article for me.  It describes the basic irrationality we foster in RPGs:  The goal is to help players feel like their characters are in more peril than they actually are.
  33. A New Golden Age.  Are we in a new golden age of tabletop RPGs?
  34. 4e Skill Challenge Example.  This is maybe my favorite article.  It's painfully missing from the 4e DMG/DMK.  It's just an example of a DM using a 4e skill challenge in play.
  35. Motif.  On how to use motif in your RPGs.
  36. Storytellers, Puppetmasters and Toymakers.  Storytellers are GMs whose purpose is to tell a story they have through events.  Puppetmasters are GMs whose purpose is to tell a story through villains.  Toymakers are GMs whose purpose is to tell a story through conflict.  I need to write a new take on this concept, since my short summary there is clearer than the silly quizicle I wrote.
  37. Incorporating New Players - Troubleshooting.  This is basic troubleshooting for adding new players.  Basic social engineering.
  38. Last Words on Next.  For a (sort of) weekly blogger, I managed to avoid talking about the 5th edition D&D playtest process too much.  
  39. GM Tips from GUMSHOE. The GUMSHOE system makes a few big statements about how to run a game.  I pull them out for you.
  40. Dealing with Absent Players.  A common GM problem.  How do you handle it?  This is one of my go-to articles.
  41. Toymakers and Storytellers Part 2.  I ramble a little more on the idea.  
  42. Social Arsonists.  This article is particularly inspiring for LARP GMs.  It's a favorite of mine.
  43. Two Steps.  I like to prep, but I only prep two steps ahead, or else I risk writing material I'll never use.
  44. Frame Stories.  I love frame stories.  Here's how to use them in RPGs.  It's a favorite of mine.
  45. Hot Topic: The Strange Frame.  Just some musing on how to use a frame story in The Strange RPG by Monte Cook Games.
  46. 4e Combat Social Conventions.  This deserves a rewrite.  These social conventions could work for any tactical RPG.  They came from my experience playing 4e at the paragon level, where combat takes a long time (that edition's greatest flaw).
  47. The Unarmed Skeletons.  Two examples of how I love making the players feel like they're awesome.
  48. Nights Black Agents Operation Cards.  I should probably give this a CC3.0 license.  They're useful cards for operation planning for anyone running a spy RPG.
  49. Theater of the Mind Action.  Some tips on running action in the "Theater of the Mind."  The key: No "gotchas."


2014 (19 posts, counting this one!)


  1. Designing Elysium Style LARPs.  This is the conclusion of my thinking on Elysium style LARP.  If you're going to run a "competitive" LARP, read this.
  2. Level Up.  This is one of my favorite go-to articles.  So many fantasy RPG GMs have questions about XP and leveling, and this lays out common methods they may not be familiar with.
  3. Death and Resurrection Table.  This needs to be updated with D&D 5th Edition!  The Basic Rules that were released last week cover the death and resurrection rules.
  4. Calibrating CR.  I'm not sure any GM is actually going to ever use this tool.  It's designed to help Pathfinder GMs calibrate the CR system for the level of optimization of their players' characters.
  5. Dungeons.  One of my favorite articles, because it digs deep into how to write a dungeon, the staple story frame for the world's most popular tabletop RPGs.  
  6. The Hex Crawl.  Not only is this one of my favorite articles, it's also got a pretty cool short campaign or long adventure baked into it!
  7. Distributed Processing.  How to choose a game system based on your group's level of enthusiasm for system mastery, and why this is important.
  8. Plans are Worthless but Planning is Everything. My philosophy on prep, and an example of a day-long session I've prepped.
  9. My Vampires.  I'm running Night's Black Agents, and wanted to show what that game looks like, from the GM side.  Seriously, read the GM advice section in that book.  It's fantastic.
  10. Thieves' Guilds.  I responded to another blog about Thieves' Guilds, but I used the opportunity to demonstrate the importance of defining mood and genre in your campaign.
  11. Magic Beans.  This is an article about campaign design, laying down undefined hooks (magic beans), recording them for future use, and then using them later.
  12. Example Adventure Style LARP Session Agenda.  This is part of my series on running a LARP; I'm a huge fan of Adventure Style LARP, done well.  
  13. Puzzles.  I wrote this for myself, to help get inspiration for writing puzzles in fantasy RPGs.  It defines and classifies puzzles in RPGs.
  14. 5 Things to do your First Session as a GM.  My first attempt at a listicle.  It's good!
  15. Storium.  A stub post about the online play-by-post game engine.
  16. My GM Credo.  How I see my role as a GM as that of a facilitator.
  17. Pathfinder Types and Select Subtypes.  A printable resource sheet listing the types and some subtypes for Pathfinder monsters to speed up play with spellcasters.
  18. Conflict is a Stretch.  How to write encounter-level conflict so it's more interesting than a simple kill-or-be-killed battle.
  19. 100th Post.  This one!

Some stats!

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