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September 28, 2012

Running Social Scenes

When the statistic called Charisma was invented for the first time, a new layer was added to Dungeons and Dragons, and with it, to nearly all roleplaying games from that point forward:  a system for adjudicating social interaction with character statistics.

What social systems give us is a way to divorce player social skills from character social skills and, in some systems, by setting different levels to various social skills, somewhat define a character's personality by how well he takes to and performs various social tasks.  They also allow us to stand at a remove from repugnant or uncomfortable social situations, make a die-roll-based tactical game out of social situations, and create situations where the GM can point to the dice to announce a failed or successful social interaction regardless of how poorly he defended an NPC's position or how poorly a player defended his own.

September 26, 2012

September 25, 2012

Your Title

I was talking with game designer Reinhart about the name for a GM.  He said that the M in GM was too authoritarian.  To him, M is Master.  As in Game Master.  To me it's Moderator, as in Game Moderator, though I know that Game Master is the original abbreviation.  To most non-gamers, GM as a title means General Manager, which might actually be an even better use of the term for a roleplaying game.

September 21, 2012

I Heart Metagaming

Metagaming is the use of out of game information to influence in game decisions.  See

I love it.  I strongly encourage my players to do it.

September 18, 2012

Giving Back

Brief post:  What are your thoughts on a long-time player's duty to the game?

What I'm Up To

I suppose I should take a moment and explain what games I'm currently running and playing.  That way, if you're following my blog, you can use that for some perspective.  We all come with biases, after all.

September 14, 2012

Level One

Level One is a deeply ingrained concept in fantasy stories of a certain kind, to the point where roleplaying games, when they first began, started characters at "level 1" and advanced them from there.

Taran wanted to make a sword; but Coll, charged with the practical side of his education, decided on horseshoes.  And so it had been horseshoes all morning long.  Taran's arms ached, soot blackened his face.  At last he dropped the hammer and turned to Coll, who was watching him critically.
"Why?" Taran cried.  "Why must it be horseshoes?  As if we had any horses!"
Coll was stout and round and his great bald head glowed bright pink.  "Lucky for the horses," was all he said, glancing at Taran's handiwork...
- The opening scene of The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander

September 12, 2012

Spicy Character Classes

I'm going to be a player in a Pathfinder game soon.  I've noticed, making a character, that the system adds a lot to improve it over 3.5ed D&D.  But this is a post even gamers who don't care much for D&D will understand.  See, one thing Pathfinder did to improve it over 3.5ed D&D was to add a lot of flavor to each and every class.

September 7, 2012

Playtesting Next

Quick post!  We playtested D&D Next last weekend, with me as the DM.  I ran a whole level's worth of adventure for a 4-person party playing the bounty hunter, human cleric, wizard, and halfling rogue.  We played in the "theater of the mind" and it seemed to work fine.  I wanted to give some first thoughts:

Flaws: the Great World of Darkness Innovation

EDIT:  This post has been revised and re-written along with some other content.  The revised version can be found here:

Players want their characters to be fun, which means they should serve as capable tools for interacting with the world and resolving challenges presented in the story.  They should also be connected to the story through hooks to give them context and motivation.  These two layers actually oppose one another. 

September 4, 2012

The Pitch

 This was a lot harder to write than I thought…  The pitch is a discrete GM skill, but there are a lot of angles to write about it from.  And it’s a great topic for examples, so I found myself writing way too many.  Writing to a blog format is a specific skill, as it turns out, and I need to learn it!