Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Low Cost D&D Terrain

Some simple 3D elements can make your table pop!
People who enjoy watching live-play D&D streams will notice some of the amazing terrain and dungeon set-ups that are often featured on these shows. There are products like Dwarven Forge and Miniature Building Authority that would make anyone oooh and aaah over the amazing creations that DMs can bring to the table… and there's a temptation to think we need to be as visually impressive in order to run a quality game.

But those props come at a relatively steep cost that make most game masters pause.

Do you really need those kinds of fancy props? Absolutely not… but sometimes you still want to put something out on the table that makes your players go “Wow… Cool!” You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to do it. Here are some cheap and easy options to spiff up your game.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

GM 101: The D&D Quest Log

Campaigns have lots of moving parts. There are likely dozens of NPCs, a couple main quest hooks, and several side quest hooks. There are also clues, rumors, random bits of lore, and locations of significance that your players will stumble upon over the course of months. It's hard enough to remember what happened in the game 2 sessions ago, much less 3 or 4 months ago.

Quest Log note card
Notes in a quest log can be short and sweet.
How do they keep track of all of that?

The Quest Log

One of the biggest player challenges (and probably one of the simplest to solve) revolves around player note-taking. Ideally, there's at least one player at the table who is keeping a set of notes written and organized for easy reference... And yet, remembering (or finding) the information the PC's need, even when there are extensive notes, is often still a chore. 

One of my players keeps extraordinarily detailed notes. So detailed that the Google document is now dozens and dozens of pages long. I think he may be planning a novelization... But even with such extensive notes, something as simple as finding all the recent NPC hooks is a daunting task.

To simplify the burden, the GM should keep some simple colored index cards on hand during the sessions. Each time the PCs get an clue, plot, or quest hook, simple jot a couple quick notes down an hand it to the player. It's as easy a 4 lines.

Short hook description, NPC name, NPC location, notes... Perhaps a date stamp for organization. If you use a variety of colors, you can even use the card's color as part of the organization. Yellow for NPC quests, pink for plot clues, blue for interesting locations (with no specific quest attached)... Or anything along those lines. 

EDIT: For those that use a wiki and/or notebook, this method would not necessarily replace those notes, but enhance them with a stack of quest cards right at the table during play for easy reference.

Again, keep it short and simple. The idea is not for you to write all their notes for them, but to give them an easily organized visual reference for specific hooks to which they can add more notes. It should take no more than a minute or two to jot the quest or plot hook down, and your players will have a quick reference for all sorts of happenings in your game world.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

GM 101, Ep 2: Problem Players and the Social Contract

If social media is any indication, newer game masters have a lot of issues with disruptive players in their game. These issues are not difficult to resolve if you and your players understand the what the social contract is and how it applies to in-game and out of game behavior at the table. Here's advice on how you should manage disruptive players at your gaming table.

  0:00   Introduction
  0:55   What is the Social Contract?
  1:11   (moment of dementia)
  1:40   Rule 1 - Don't be a jerk.
  1:54   Don't do these things.
  2:22   D&D is a team sport.
  4:44   Don't be "that guy" (or gal).
  5:50   "It's what my character would do."
  6:52   How to manage the problem player as the DM.
  7:00   Don't "punish" the player. Talk to them.
  7:25   Example of how to approach the problem player.
10:20   Consensual in-game conflict
11:30   The DM also facilitates the social interactions
12:05   Personal anecdote of problem players
14:30   Summary points

Other Owlbear musings