Introspection: Skills as a Game Master

Jun 2, 2011
Mark

I’ve spent a lot of hours as a game master. I’ve run numerous systems ranging from classic fantasy games to post apocalyptic settings. Pure hours of running or the range of systems doesn’t make me a stellar GM. I do many things well but the list of things I do poorly is just as long.

Analysing yourself is about as enjoyable as a root canal. If you want to improve at anything, critically identifying weaknesses and strengths is useful.

Weaknesses

  1. Big Picture: I am not a grand vision game master. I do not plot or plan story arcs spanning more than a couple of sessions. If players want to have world encompassing impact, I’m not the guy they want running the game. Thankfully, I don’t write fiction otherwise I’d be perpetually assaulted with 1 star ratings.
  2. Preparation: Traditionally, I’ve been a very open sandbox style GM. When I do prepare materials, I expend a minimal amount of effort. The likelihood of the material never being played is always lurking in the back of my mind. Making a best effort would improve play. I need to improve on prep work and find ways of making the material interesting to the players.
  3. Auto Sandbox: Being overly open isn’t always the solution. This ties into the big picture and preparation topics. If I commit myself to a solid, introduction to the games, player adoption will come quickly. Leaving people adrift with little guidance is just as bad as forcing them down the rails of a pre-planned adventure.
  4. NPCs: The majority of my non-player characters are little more than rough sketches. I realize interesting NPC’s can be a major role play driver but somehow I rarely take the time to make them engaging either as allies, acquaintances or enemies. Fleshing out the personalities and involvement with the player characters adds significant potential for roleplay.

Mediocre

  1. Defacto Game Master: Both a weakness and a strength, I have often volunteered to run games when no one else was willing. Running blind (no-prep, no-story, auto-sandbox), does not translate into an enjoyable session. It can on occasion but many of the games flounder. This is less of a weakness today as it was in years past since my group has found many other non-rpg games to fill the dead space.

Strengths

  1. Flexibility: I’ll give any game a whirl. I have a bent for wanting to try out new stuff. I never planned on running Boot Hill or Cyberpunk. Somehow I ended up doing so. Nothing wrong with that other than what I’ve already mentioned in the Defacto section. Sometimes it works. Alternatively, the group learns they really don’t want to play the system.
  2. Player Engagement: I pick up on player engagement fairly quickly. If a session is foundering, I’ll kabosh it rather than continuing to brutalize players with boredom. Sometimes the decision is merciless. Tact could be improved on occasion. If a game is failure, I believe it better to terminate quickly and move on. For games going well, the players who are engaged in the game get the majority of my attention. I’ll try to engage the straggler for a while in a game session.
  3. Character Engagement: When players spend the time to generate characters with history and goals, I incorporate them into my games. Especially when players actively point out the nuances of the character prior to game play. Adapting to the character quirks adds a lot of depth for both the player and I. Too many game systems fail to encourage history and quirks. When a character is generated above and beyond the basic system, paying attention to what they envision opens doors. Role play doesn’t come from skeleton characters based off a draw of the card.
  4. Criticism: When I suck, my players are welcome to tell me I do. Everyone fails. I listen and try to incorporate the feedback if it is relevant. I’ve screwed up badly as a game master on several occasions. When it happens, I laugh at myself along with everyone else. Being perfect is impossible and laughing at myself is good therapy.

I have no illusions. At times, I’m a pretty good GM. On other occasions, I fail miserably. Every game and session is different. I aim to improve on where I lack and be humble when corrected. As long as everyone is having fun, life is good.


Distraction Dysfunction: YAG / Deck of Many Things

Jun 1, 2011
Mark

There are probably a hundred different variations for generating results from a Deck of Many Things. Somewhere around Littleton, I took a left turn onto Random Avenue and decided #101 would be okay. My variant is based on the 1st Edition DMG and utilizes a public domain tarot deck from 1910. Past, meet past. Pasts greet PHP. Welcome to the modern age.

I had far too many distractions tonight before I could make it pretty. Functional beats form. I’ll clean up the layout later.

Poke away.


Up yours, Google.

May 31, 2011
Mark

I love Google. I really do. I really hate some of the assumptions they make… Take commenting on a Blogger blog with a Google ID:

I'm going to comment....

Then you get crap like this:

Huh? Sorry, no, don't need a blog

Like many, I don’t need 417 different identities I need to track. I certainly don’t need another blog when all I want to do is comment on yours. So I wanted to comment but failed. Such is life. I don’t need another identity, yet another blog.


Labyrinth Lord Treasure Book Cover Contest

May 29, 2011
Mark

Introduction

I’m proud of my Labyrinth Lord Treasure Book Utility. Based on the feedback I’ve gotten directly and indirectly, others have found it useful as well. Both the online generator and nightly generated books have found an audience.

The contents are fine but it needs an identity. Such an identity can only come from artwork. So, I have decided to hold an open artwork contest for art to adorn the free utility as cover art. I do not require exclusive license to the artwork, just the right to reproduce it on demand on the cover of the treasure book. The artist is free to use the work for other purposes. Artist will be credited within the book including contact information, website info, etc.

Contest Details

Entries are for artwork to adorn the cover of the book but need not be a full cover. Full covers including title, artwork and layout are encouraged but not required.

The Prize Pool

  • 1st: Prize: $100.00 (USD)
  • 2nd Prize: $50.00
  • 3rd Prize: $25.00

Prizes will be paid either through PayPal, via gift certificate at DriveThruRPG/RPGNow or via gift card at Amazon.com. The winners must select a preferred payment upon notification of a prize.

Entries & Judging

Entries must be posted to on the Goblinoid Games forums by June 30, 2011. All members of the Goblinoid Games’ forums can vote for up to three entries. Voting ends July 8th, 2011.

I will down select from the top five entries, based on forum votes, and announce the prize winners the week of July 10th, 2011. Winners will be notified via private message on the forum site to coordinate payout.

Questions?

Post them on the Goblinoid Games forum thread.


Raw Data: Fantasy Occupations

May 27, 2011
Mark
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While working on a software project, I needed a decent list of occupations for non-player characters in a fantasy setting. After searching around, I discovered most of the lists available are relatively sparse. Most are quite focused on playable options rather than common careers. Other lists are condensed with only gross categories.

Finally, I just set about combining a variety of sources. The raw list contains over 200 occupations. The list contains numerous synonyms for the the same job. The list also contains a number of titles and fantasy rpg class names.

Before I consolidate it for my needs, I decided to publish the unedited list to save others the same work. Here’s a sampling of the data. The raw file and table differ slightly.

Raw Fantasy/Medieval Occupations and Titles
Actor
Advocate
Alchemist
Animal Handler
Apothecary
Architect
Archer
Aristocrat
Armorer
Artisan
Artist
Astrologer
Baker
Banker
Barbarian
Barber
Bard
Barkeep
Barmaid
Beekeeper
Beer Seller
Beggar
Blacksmith
Boatman
Boatswain
Bookbinder
Bookseller
Bowman
Bowyer
Brewer
Brothel Keeper
Buckle Maker
Builder
Butcher
Caravan Leader
Carpenter
Cartographer
Chandler
Charioteer
Chatelaine
Chef
Chieftain
Chirurgeon
Clergy
Clerk
Clock Maker
Cloth Worker
Commander
Concubine
Cook
Cooper
Copyist
Counselor
Courtesan
Courtier
Cowherd
Crossbowman
Cutler
Daimyo
Dairymaid
Diplomat
Distiller
Diver
Diviner
Domestic Servant
Emperor/Empress
Eunuch
Explorer
Farmer
Fighter
Fisherman
Fishmonger
Fletcher
Footman
Forester
Freighter
Furrier
Galley Slave
Gambler
Gardener
Geisha
Gladiator
Glove Maker
Groom
Guild Master
Harness Maker
Hat Maker
Hay Merchant
Healer
Hearthwitch
Herald
Herbalist
Herder
Hermit
Highwayman
Hunter
Illuminator
Innkeeper
Interpreter
Inventor
Jailer
Jester
Jeweler
Jongleur
Judge
King
Knight
Laborer
Lady
Lady in Waiting
Leather Worker
Limner
Locksmith
Lord
Maidservant
Majordomo
Man at Arms
Mason
Masseur
Mercer
Merchant
Messenger
Midwife
Miller
Miner
Minstrel
Monk
Mortician
Mourner
Navigator
Necromancer
Noble
Nun
Nurse
Page
Painter
Pariah
Pastry Cook
Peasant
Perfumer
Philosopher
Physician
Pigkeeper
Pilgrim
Plasterer
Potter
Priest/ess
Prince/ss
Professor
Purse Maker
Quartermaster
Queen
Ranger
Ratcatcher
Rigger
Ronin
Roofer
Rope Maker
Royal Adviser
Rug Maker
Ruler
Sailor
Samurai
Scabbard Maker
Scribe
Sculptor
Saddler
Scavenger
Scholar
Scrivener
Servant
Shaman
Shepherd
Ship’s Captain
Ship’s Mate
Shipwright
Shoemaker
Silversmith
Slave
Slaver
Smith
Soldier
Sorcerer/Sorceress
Spice Merchant
Squire
Stable Hand
Storyteller
Steward
Street Kid
Surveyor
Swineherd
Swordsman
Sycophant
Tailor
Tanner
Tavern Keeper
Tax Collector
Teamster
Thatcher
Thief
Tinker
Torturer
Town Crier
Trader
Trapper
Vendor
Vermin Catcher
Village Chief
Vintner
Viking
Warlock
Warrior
Water Carrier
Weaponsmith
Weaver
Wet Nurse
Wine Seller
Witch
Wizard
Woodcarver
Woodcutter
Wood Seller

Feel free to add anything I’ve overlooked.


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Encounter Space: Jackalwere

May 26, 2011
Mark
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Jackalwere’s are an excellent choice as an encounter for a lower level party. The creature occurs in low (1-4) numbers but has powerful special abilities. The creatures can shape shift at will into three different forms: a jackal, a human or as a half-human/half jackal. They also possess a sleep gaze and can only be hit my magical or iron* weapons.

Unlike lyncanthropes, the jackalwere doesn’t transmit a disease. They are very intelligent and will use the sleep gaze if possible on unsuspecting victims. Their hatred for humanoids should be tempered by intelligent tactics. Given a choice, the jackalwere will only attack if they believe they can prevail. If possible, they will utilize the sleep gaze to incapacitate prey rather than engaging in outright combat. The jackalwere is a master of deceit and will only reveal itself if forced.

Last Encounter

Initially, I was going to use Jackalweres as a encounter on a roadway. Instead, the party chose to stay in town and undertake a mission from the local thieves guild. The ‘weres were stalking unsuspecting merchants after closing. They would approach the residence of the shopkeeper acting as if they needed items urgently. If the unsuspecting merchant fell to the sleep gaze, they would drag the disabled merchant back into the residence and slaughter/feast upon the corpse.

The party was already alerted to the deaths early and staked out the area where the killings had taken place. The jackalweres were in human form but were not aware of the party staking out the street. After targeting a merchant, the party engaged forcing the jackalweres into a fight.

Tweaks to Better the Encounter

I was flying by the seat of my pants so I didn’t play it as well as I could have. I ignored the intelligence and morale of the monsters once the combat was in full swing. The jackalweres should have likely tried to flee and fight another day once they were significantly injured. One did escape but would not have chosen to re-engage a party member later unless it was at an advantage.

I underplayed the menace of the jackalweres. The creatures are prone to feasting upon their prey. The horror could have been upped if the original deaths were reported as partially eaten corpses. Toss in full families rather than individual merchants and I may have gotten a more energetic response from my group. Still, it was a brutal encounter, which fit the setting requested.

Other Encounters

1 Jackalwere

Should you choose to be evil, have a single ‘were in human form, act injured on the roadside. If the party aids the injured, the ‘were will wait until night and attempt to disable those on watch and then slaughter the rest of the party in its sleep. The tactic is brutal but aligns with the mentality of the creature. If discovered, it will attempt to flee rather than fighting a pitched battled.

Pack of Jackals / Wilderness Encounter

The jackalweres will mix with a pack of normal jackals in jackal form Within the pack, they will engage the party briefly overnight to test the strength of the party. As the alpha members of the pack, the jackalwere’s will not sacrifice any member of the pack in combat. Its a feint. If the party appears weak enough to be killed, one jackalwere, bruised and bleeding, will approach the camp at dawn in attempt to use its sleep gaze. If ineffective, the jackalwere will later try to slink off. If successful, the rest of the pack will engage.

Final Thoughts

I don’t understand the magical and iron(*) only weapon restriction. Magical only? Sure. Iron? I’ve never distinguished materials for weapons in my game. I’d play it as +1 or better magical weapons and ignore the “iron” weapon option unless you classify metal types of weapons in your game. The iron weapon component must have a following since its survived several fantasy editions and been included in retro-clone games.

Jackalweres are tough creatures. The fantastic abilities of shape shifing and sleep gaze make for a far more interesting encounter than wandering band of humanoids. Played correctly, they could become an early nemesis of the party.


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Blackberry Mead

May 25, 2011
Mark

Yet another batch of mead. Pretty much the same as the grocery store mead except I used White Labs Sweet Mead yeast rather than Fleischmans and I added around a pound of blackberries. Additionally, the orange went in with the peel unlike the prior batch.

Blackberry Mead

The blackberries were from the freezer section of the grocery store. I let them nearly thaw then tossed them in the blender. If I had a small brewing pail, I may have placed them in a cheesecloth bag rather than adding them directly. I plan to add a second round of berries when I rack into the secondary to augment the fruit flavor.

I’m also giving the balloon method a try for an airlock. I should know how well its going to work within a day or so.

Happy Balloon (Airlock)


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