Friday, October 14, 2011

MapTools and online gaming

So, since my last post I've moved from Charlotte to Cary, NC.  I've left behind my old gaming buddies, other than the one that commutes to Chapel Hill frequently.  I still want to continue with this game, so I'm trying to get the group together via MapTools to do some virtual tabletop gaming.  With MapTools, I find the learning curve steep, but only because I've never done anything like it before.  I've watched hours of tutorial videos.  I've browsed forums for tips.  But in the end, I just need to dive in and be ready to make mistakes.  I just hope that my group comes along for the ride.

Monday, May 16, 2011

New game with an interesting dynamic

     My new Pathfinder game kicked off this past Friday.  All but one of the players showed up (eventually), and I think we all had a good time.  This group has a much different dynamic than my other game, that's for sure.  For one, 3 of the characters are chaotic neutral.  Normally, I shy away from this alignment choice because it tends to create some intra-party problems and can often lead to unheroic characters and events.  However, 2 of the CN players are from my other group, and I'm hoping that everything will go along swimmingly.  We also have a LG half-giant paladin, who is already showing to be a brute in combat.  And, surprisingly, the summoner's eidolon has held his own, too.  The party immediately faced off in combat with a group of muggers and promptly beat them down, even without the dwarven fighter in the mix yet (player absence).  The party then spent the remainder of the session split up, which slowed the game down to a crawl.  I tried to keep the game moving, and bounce between scenes, but there is only so much you can do to keep everybody invested.  I hope our next session picks up the pace a bit.
     Also, the group is without a dedicated healer.  The paladin and maybe the rogue are the only two that can use curing wands (eventually).  I foresee a lot of potions being consumed.  With this many beaters in the group, they have plenty of hp to share, but they will eventually run out of gas and fall.  This Adventure Path was noted to be quite brutal, so I'm anxious to see how it all plays out. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The new game has begun . . .oops, wait a moment

So, my new game was supposed to begin tomorrow, April 15th.  However, several of the players have cancelled, causing me to postpone the opening session.  I'm bummed out, but it will work out, I'm sure.  I have most of the character sheets from the players and some of them even have back-stories (WOOT!).  Complicating matters is the fact that I am unavailable myself at our next scheduled game day.  Uh oh.  It looks like this game won't get off the ground until mid-May.

What am I going to do with my Fridays until then?

Monday, March 28, 2011

New game

I used to have a game lined up for every Friday.  This worked out well as it gave me my gaming fix in regular, scheduled doses.  I played in 2 games, which alternated Fridays.  One of the games was dropped for a reason that I can't recall right now.  But the game that I ran continued on, and it quickly approaching its 2-year anniversary.  This has left a void in my schedule.  I feel that this void has caused my gaming emotions to cycle from high to low to an excessive degree.  Hmmm, maybe I'm gaming bi-polar?  I would get excited as the game day drew closer and then crash to the floor a day or two after the game had taken place. 
    I was trying to get another game going, with one of my current players serving as the DM.  Well, after several months of trying to gather enough people to make this happen, I finally decided to take matters into my own hands and send out a request for players for a game which I will DM. 
  I realize that DMing 2 games can be quite overwhelming.  To help alleviate this, I will be running a pre-generated campaign, and trying to stick to the Core rules as much as possible to alleviate too much customization.  With a few days, I already had several people interested in the game and we will begin the story on April 15th. 
  Now, maybe my bi-polar tendencies will stabilize and I will be a happy(-er) gamer.  :-)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The itch

My ongoing game is approaching its 2-year anniversary in April/May.  We normally play every other Friday.  Originally, I played other games (including Professor Pope's) on alternating Fridays, which meant that I had a game every single Friday.  I loved this, but these games have long gone on to gamer heaven.  And, as you can read in my previous posting, I want to game constantly, which brings me to today's topic. 

I just put out a recruitment notice for a new Pathfinder game to fill the gap of my alternating Fridays.  My current game will continue to roll on and it will still be my primary focus.  Therefore, I will not have as much time to devote toward the new game.  So I've decided to pull back on my normal liberal tendencies and restrict the players to using rules only from the core books.  I will also be running a pre-generated campaign, probably one of Paizo's Adventure Paths.  All of this should help minimize the work required by me to prep for the game.  It should be run and I look forward to starting something new and fresh.

So, anybody want to join the game?

Monday, March 21, 2011

The doldrums of gaming

My last game night (for the regular game) was March 11th.  We were supposed to play again this Friday, the 25th, but some work commitments means we had to put that off for another week, which bums me out.  On off weeks, we've been trying to get another group going with limited success.  All of this, plus the amount of time I spend during the week on game prep, research, and just general goofing off has made me realize that I have a higher-than-average gaming drive.

If I had my way, I'd like to play daily.  Of course, I have work and family commitments which prevent that, but that isn't my point.  My point is that I enjoy gaming.  I enjoy hanging out with friends and having a common interest.  One of the reasons that I prefer to DM is because of the time it takes.  While many people bemoan the time required to DM, I love it.  I'm the type of guy that finds the odd bits to bring to the table to help create atmosphere and immersion.  For example, during the next major leg of the campaign, I have come across some great mood music and even some voice-acted mp3's that give some great flavor and backstory to the game.  I pour over game guides and fan-created tidbits.  I forward them on to my players, only to have them reply, "Hey thanks.  I'll get to that when I can." 

So, I'm curious.  How many other fanatics are there out there? 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Critical Hit (of Information)

Over at Professor Pope's blog, I came across the question of DM expectations vs player decisions, specifically as it relates to the direction of the campaign.  In a past game, he dropped some hints to the players, expecting them to take the bait and run with it.  Instead they went a different direction.  I'm sure this has happened to many fellow DMs, myself included.  In the past, I may have scrambled to make something up and tried to force the players to link back up with my designed direction.  Railroading? Oh ya.  More recently, I have come up with another alternative, loosely defined as follows:
  1. If the players need a key piece of info, make sure that they have several ways to discover it.  If said piece of information is so critical to the forward momentum of the game, they MUST find it.  In this situation, I usually let the players find tidbits of the info with almost every type of Skill they have.  Even a low skill check result will get them a crumb to follow.  
  2. If you drop plot seeds and adventure options to the players, who then fail to follow said devices, then be prepared to have the seeds escalate.  In my current game, the players have a to-do list that is a mile long.  Professor Pope's (former) character was recently informed that his home town had been overrun by undead and that some family members were missing.  As a group, they decided that their current mission was more important and put the undead-city on the back burner.  It has been almost a year in game time since that first message came to them.  If they were to investigate it now, I'm sure that the situation has changed.  Maybe another group of heroes has cleansed the city?  Maybe the undead in the city have expanded?  Who knows?  My point is that the DM should be prepared to let loose plot threads unravel and escalate on their own.  And the occasional thread should come back to haunt the players.  But it is critical that only a few of these circle back on the PCs.  If every loose plot thread screws with the group, the players will get frustrated with their failure to complete these items.  
  3. If the players need to meet an important PC or have a certain encounter, yet they go in a different direction, be prepared to improvise and have the interaction occur elsewhere.  This is often called Schroedinger's XYZ (Dungeon, Gun, etc).  The players don't know what is around the next corner until they come across it.  Use this uncertainty to place your encounters as needed. Just because you write an adventure to happen a certain way, you must be prepared to change it if required.  Don't lock encounters to specific sites.  Instead, loosely tie encounters to general locations and have the PCs encounter them in a natural, organic manner.  
  4. Don't waste time writing up the backstory to every NPC, city, nation, etc.  Unless the PCs will learn the information and it is relevant to the campaign, ditch the details.  A DMs job is already hard enough without having to put every detail down in writing.  Be prepared to wing it by having a list of vague details handy.  Don't go into the history of the blacksmith in Town A unless he will be encountered again and again.  Any information that you write that is not shared with the players is just a waste of your time.  So, either share it with them, or skip it altogether.