How many videos and blog posts out there that tell you who to DM or DM in a specific way? How to run a mystery. How to run a political, horror, grim dark etc. A lot. Too many? That’s up to you to decide.
If you’ve spent any time around writers there’s this common talk of finding your voice. Finding that style that it is you. This same idea applies to being a DM. Sure some folks can bounce from genre to genre and from tone to tone with ease. But some of us can’t. Or should I say that some of us aren’t that good at it. And that’s OK. Embrace your voice and be yourself.
I admit it. I suck at running most SciFi games. I can do it and enjoy it but the campaigns never last long. What about horror or something grim dark? Well, no. I try. I start that way and soon my own dark sense of humor creeps in and we’re making Monty Python jokes in the face of an Elder God. Is there anything wrong with this? Oh no! It break immersion. Yeah it does but when what you’re immersed in isn’t exactly your forte then fewer people start enjoying the game.
So be honest with yourself about what you’re good at and what you enjoy as DM. Be honest with your players. And as a player be honest too. Just because the DM isn’t running the game the way you want. Doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. It’s just different. And any reasonable person can tell the difference between just a different tone and feel and folks that are just jerks.
Over the last year, I’ve grown to like zines. They generally offer adventure that cumbersome, extra little tools and tricks, magic items, and other neat things. Stuff that I’m actually going to use and get a bigger bang for my buck. So when I saw Torches Zine No 0 on Drivethru, I grabbed it up.
So what do you get in this little zine? Well, a dungeon, a city, a monster, an NPC, and a magic item. Now, I’ll say that dungeon (The Ancient Library of Aghma-Toth) is more of place. Sure there are monsters but it’s more of useful as a place for the characters to go because they need something (probably magical).
Looking for a monkey scorpion hybrid? Well, there’s the Mandricolas. There’s a small city in the zine too and it’s laid out with only the barest of details and I think some may be missing. As I mentioned before there’s an NPC (a mean anti-paladin type guy) who’s thought out pretty well. And finally a magical artifact, Lovan’s Artifact which offers some minor benefits on the scale of artifacts.
Torches is designed for use with Old School Essentials so it can be easily converted to whatever old school rule set you happen to prefer. I’m 90% sure that the authors are not native English speakers so there are few confusing sentences in the zine so the few confusing sentences here and there are things that I’m will to overlook. The material is inspirational but you as the DM will have to do all the heavy lifting in most cases.
I know everybody does this and I actually started last month but I wanted to just get this one over with.
A lot has been going on this year not all of it good. There’s been the usual RPG controversies and trolling. I’ll mock that later. But I want to look back a little over this past year about a few of the good things that I managed to pull off.
I would say most importantly I finally got an online game off the ground. It was real dry stretch there with COVID and losing contact with most of my old meat space gaming group. I suppose I could dove into something but I’m always kind of picky about who I game with. I know that sounds snotty but I’d rather not get stuck in a game that wasn’t fun for me.
I actually managed to publish two things on DrivethruRPG. I know that’s not really a major accomplishment but I’d rather do two things that I though were good rather than a dozen meh products. And both Deathstalkers of Antediluvia and Forgotten Tales of Sword & Sorcery made it Copper. I suppose I should do a little more marketing on them.
So what else happened? I started a Patreon but I’ll lament more on that later.
Now, I know that doesn’t sound like much but I did post more here on the blog but I did stop doing the Anchor Podcast since it wasn’t really worth my time. And, of course, COVID also put the Youtube videos on hold.
Yeah, and I finally started painting some mini’s again.
So with that I’ll back planning on the mischief that I plan on causing next year. I’ll post about that later. Trust me. Lot’s of things are going to change around here. It will be fun or a total disaster.
Ah yes. Last week was busier than expected so not much got done on the old blog but I did have the chance to scribble down some notes and then sort of put them together to make more sense. Plus, I’ve been working on a version of YARC for my players and I did promise that they’d see the rough draft in December so been working on that.
As I was organizing and making handy little tables something occurred to me about Proficiency Bonuses from 5E. Sure, it’s easy but in the back of my mind it didn’t make sense. Let me explain. A 1st level Fighter and 1st level Wizard each have a +2 Proficiency Bonus with a dagger. Yes, the Fighter does have better fighting related stats but, in my mind, this works out that they each have the same amount of training. And that makes no sense. Same goes if look at Thief and another character with Stealth. Skills are supposed to the Thief’s thing, so why does everybody else get the same bonus. OK, before you go all crazy on me, I know there all sorts of boosts in 5E based on the character’s class. But this ain’t 5E. It’s my own crazy hack that’s inspired by some 5E mechanics.
So what did I do about this? Well, let’s split up that Bonus. Characters have an Attack Bonus, a Skill Bonus, and Spell Casters have a Spell Bonus. Let’s start of with Attack Bonus. Fighters get a +2. Thieves and Clerics get a +1, and Magic-Users get a +0. For a Skill Bonus, Thieves get a +2 and everybody else gets a +1. And if you’re seeing the pattern, Clerics and Magic-Users have a +2 Spell Bonus. Now, how does progress as a character gains levels? Same way as in 5E, the first +1 is at 5th Level. And there are some opportunities to increase that along the way depending on you class.
There’s another little tweak I added. Originally, there were only four Saving Throws. I had combined the Death Save ala 5E into the Save versus Poison and Disease. After some thought, I came to the conclusion that Death don’t care and it should be it’s own Save that no class get’s a bonus to but an individual character might.
And that’s it for this week. I’ve got lots more crazy notes to type up.
At first this may seem like a silly question considering but let’s think about if for a moment. I suppose I should first day that this all depends on both the DM and the players acting reasonable people. It’s said that I have to throw that little disclaimer up but such is the way of the Internet rage machine.
So, what is D&D?
No matter the edition, there’s those certain mechanics or sacred cows that have continued to live on like Armor Class, Hit Die, Saving Throws, Hit Points, Class, Level, the Six Ability Scores etc. Sure the math has changed and how exactly each is used has been altered but they are still there. They are the basic building blocks of the game system. Like I said, no matter the edition.
But we also hear on nearly a daily basis that somebody is playing it wrong. There’s the old edition warring and the “new” vs “old” school. So when someone says that you’re playing it wrong what they really mean is that you’re not playing it the same as them.
Sure there is stupid crap out there. Stuff I don’t like and think is silly. And there’s stuff that I think is cool. Everybody has those tastes. Just take that time to distinguish what’s “wrong” and what’s just to your disliking. RPG’s are like pizza. Have whatever toppings you want but I still think that pineapple on pizza is an abomination. But IMHO, much of the wrong or down right silly comes from folks trying to make D&D do things that it wasn’t designed to do.
Hear me out on this. I can take the classic module Keep on the Borderland and run it with any edition of D&D, Savage Worlds, Runequest, Warhammer Fantasy, GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, FATE, Sword of Cepheus, Open D6 or a number of other systems. It’s the exact same adventure but each of these systems will result in a different experience for the players and the DM. Each of these game rules has their tone, strengths, and weaknesses. So if you’re trying to make D&D feel like FATE or Warhammer feel like Savage Worlds then that’s just silly to me. Just use the game that sets the kind of experience that you’re looking for. I’m not saying that a savvy DM can’t find inspiration from other game systems. Just don’t try to get one kind of play experience from a game that really isn’t designed the same way.
So what’s D&D? It is what it is. Enjoy for that and what it does it. Most importantly enjoy and have fun.