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Jul. 24th, 2015 @ 03:34 pm Introductory roleplaying
Introductory roleplaying, one evening next week or the week after. I plan to run one of the one-shots I wrote in DnD 5e which I've run for C&K before, with pregenerated characters by default (but if you have an idea in mind, we can plan a character for you).

The emphasis is very much on "one evening which is fun by itself", not a massive time commitment! But I plan to run more stand-alone one-shots if people are interested, possibly in a loosely shared world.

If you are interested, comment with availability (any weekday evening next week or the week after, or afternoon or evening the following weekend), or fill in the doodle poll:


The general plan is to have an hour with optionally eating dinner and explaining things to anyone who doesn't know the syste, and planning characters, and then start playing.

(Liv, osos, I will arrange more sessions when you can come to, just let me know when :))

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Jul. 21st, 2015 @ 11:19 pm Random roleplaying snippets
Playstyle mismatch


Other-player: My 2nd level Wizard casts a fireball, uses it as a rocket to propel themselves at the dragon and make a charge attack.

GM: That's so epic! Forget the dice roll! The charge rips right through the dragon's body, landing your wizard right next to the tied up princess.

Tactician: I take a defensive stance and ready an action to fire my bow.

GM: Ok. Now the dragon attacks you both.

Other Player: I swing my sword to cut a hole in the dragon's claw and then jump through at the last minute!

Tactician: My defensive stance gives me +2.

GM: Other player, you make it! Sorry Tact, your +2 doesn't cut it against the dragon.
This was an example of how, a player who's instinctive or most-enjoyed play style isn't matched by the GM's style, can get bored and lose interest.

But what I found interesting was that it wasn't a matter of one style being right and the other wrong. In this case, it was a tactician feeling neglected because the play only rewarded epic over-the-top-ness. But another game could have the exact reverse, the other player's gambit being met with "if you do that, the fireball just blows up in your face", and lots of detailed situations where mastery of your character's written abilities is rewarded.

The archetypes come from Robin Law's Good Gamemastering Guide (Power-gamer wants success; Butt-kicker wants to kick down the door and cut loose; the Tactician wants to do well on their own merit; the Method Actor, and a couple of others including a casual gamer who plays occasionally or for the first time and has different needs again.) It's interesting to see how those archetypes are similar to and different to other sets of archetypes often discussed.

But that it's definitely possible to have a game encompassing a fair breadth of different styles. But this example shows, sometimes people want things that are so different it's essentially impossible to cram in one without giving up the other (and that's fine if you recognise that).

The archetypal adventuring party


Q: An Ogre has over twice the HP of four goblins combined and can kill a 2nd-level character in a single blow. A 4-character party of 2nd-levelers could easily take out 4 goblins in a single round, while a 1-round defeat of an Ogre is highly unlikely. But the encounter multiplier table lists four goblins together as a slightly harder challenge, why?

A: With the ogre, although he's big and tough he's tactically easy: Bigpecs McFighter can beat on him up close while Pewpew Van Fireball blasts him from range.

With the goblins, while Bigpecs is beating one down, the rest come in from behind and play pin-the-kidney-on-the-wizard. Requires some more tactical smarts to deal with the goblins effectively. (And that more attacks can give a greater chance of killing one PC.)

B: Thanks for naming two of my NPC characters! Let's fill out the rest of the party then: Tippytoe O'Stab and Friar Bandaid.

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Jul. 21st, 2015 @ 11:05 pm Dear people who kickstart,
Dear people who start a kickstarter project, I am really not an expert at this, so if you have expert advice you probably know better than me already. But as someone who occasionally sees links to cool-looking kickstarters, I can tell you what seems good to me.

On the front page, try to have some sort of prominent summary, ideally two sentences, saying WHAT IT IS and WHY IT'S COOL. Um, maybe that's supposed to be obvious. But seriously, "We have an awesome webcomic, we made an rpg boardgame of it" or "we made an isometric computer game with detailed wizard duels" or "I wrote about about vampires living in london" or "here's a gadget that makes your bike sound like a horse", all of those make me think "oh, cool, can I see more". Even if I've never heard of it before. And many other pitches would make me think "good luck, but not for me".

But I seem to see so many kickstarters that say "here is a brand new BRANDNAME which is exciting and ADJECTIVE and lets you experience ADJECTIVE and ADVERBITY and here's a video for more information". That's fine. Unless you want me to give you money, in which case it has the disadvantage that all that coy non-information doesn't make me think "Yes, THIS random twitter link is the one I must track down the backstory for" it makes me think "why was I here again? *back* "

I'm assured, videos are great for persuading people. But I assume that only applies if people watch them?

To me, a video is saying "Dear technocrats, busy people, people with full-time jobs, people with children, people with smartphones, people under 25 with short attention spans, people with disabilities, methodical people and googlebot, get out of here, we don't want your money or your interest." Fine, you can sell to whoever you want to sell to, but that's excluding a LOT of desirable market shares...

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Jul. 21st, 2015 @ 11:55 am Dating tips from Merry Wives of Windsor
Merry Wives of Windsor was not a great play, but nonetheless was pretty funny.

Dating tips from Merry Wives of Windsor:

* Generally don't be John Falstaff
* Or a tongue-tied upper-class twit
* Or oblivious and pushy
* And the play suggests not being fat, French, or Welsh either, though I wouldn't agree with those!
* If you want to woo two people who are already friends with each other simultaneously, don't send an identical letter to both of them.
* If you love someone and they love you and you are married and living happily together, don't spy on them, harangue them, stalk them, and fly into massive fits of jealously.
* If you love someone and they love you and you are married and living happily together, don't spend lots of money bribing someone else to woo them.
* If you like someone, talk to them with actual words.
* If you like someone, don't kidnap them, nor kidnap a completely different person and marry THEM.
* If you like someone and they recoil from your touch and throw you in the Thames and beat you half to death and then ask you to go into the haunted woods at night wearing a large pair of horns on your head, there's probably a good reason and you shouldn't listen to common sense, you should totally trust them.

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Jul. 20th, 2015 @ 05:57 pm Words learned from Magic:TG
If you already know collective nouns, you learn a lot less from Magic The Gathering, but words which I first learned there include:

Welkin (the sky, the upper air, the firmament, or the Celestial sphere)
Rime (Hoar frost, greyish-white crystalline deposit of ice formed in clear still weather on vegetation, fences, etc)
Whelm (submerge, engulf, as in "overwhelm" and "underwhelm" :))
Sarkan (dragon in Slovak)

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Jul. 17th, 2015 @ 10:20 pm Dating tips from Love's Labour Lost
I saw Love's Labour Lost with nakedtoes et al, and it was pretty funny. It gives some excellent dating tips:

* Don't swear extravagant oaths you know you won't be able to keep. OK, this is not so much a dating tip as a life tip, but it applies super-much to dating too! :)
* If you really fancy someone, try asking if they're interested in you, not going through an intermediary.
* If you have an overly complex and passive-aggressive plan, run your fucking errands yourself, don't press-gang an incompetent letch into doing it on your behalf.
* If you really fancy someone, do NOT try to trick them into falling for a fictional person who's an over-the-top stereotype of a Russian.
* If you really fancy someone, do NOT try to trick them into proposing to your best friend instead.

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Jul. 17th, 2015 @ 03:00 pm Random roleplaying musings
Armour Class

Emblematic of 5e reducing the spread between low and high level is something I noticed in the monster manual, armour class is even flatter than other stats, that first level players are generally fighting monsters with AC 12-15, 20 might be possible for something fragile but really hard to hit. But the highest AC in the whole thing is the Tarrasque with AC only 25. Which doesn't mean level 20s are not mythological compared to level 1s, but that they improve in ways other than "bigger numbers", and low-level monsters are relevant for longer.

"Legendary" monsters

I also like what they did with some really tough monsters, like adult dragons. They have two features which make them effective as a large single monster. They have extra actions they take after other people's turns (often a simple attack). That means that combat is more interactive than "ok, you win initiative you marmelise the dragon before it acts" or "ok, the dragon wins initiative, it kills you, you and you" even if there's only one monster.

And also, instead of spell resistance, they have three "legendary points" which let them pass a saving throw they would otherwise have failed. That means, "I mind control the dragon" is never a game-winner, but nor is it completely useless. I don't know why that feels more appropriate than spell resistance, but it does to me -- maybe that it didn't make sense to me that "big and tough" automatically meant "resistance to magic", but "I'm just that epic" fits naturally into "you can't take me out in one hit".

There is still spell resistance in a simpler form (they have a bonus on saving throw) for a few monsters where it's appropriate.

But I also notice, it's one mechanic that stays leaning into a videogame or story-telling mode than a simulationist mode -- there's no in-world understanding of what this is, it just makes things more dramatic, and is explicitly appropriate for large single monsters (I might use the same mechanic for a party of 0th level halflings fighting a troll, but not for a party of gods fighting a swarm of adult dragons).

Stunts in combat

A problem I often had with players first getting into a mechanics-heavy roleplaying system like DnD is when someone does something dramatic like "I jump over the balcony swinging on the chandelier and attack the orc from above". There are no rules for that, really not, and it's easy for the GM to revert to a habit of saying "you can't" or "ok, you roll an attack" or "ok, here's the rules for jumping, no, it doesn't say you get any benefit". You do want to embrace that! (At least in my sort of 50/50 roleplaying, if you're concentrating on miniature wargaming, then maybe not.)

But I read an article that pointed out, if you default to fancy stunts being "make a str/dex check against DC 15, if you do, you get a small bonus to an attack, or another effect like driving them back", then it usually just works -- the dramatic move has a clear advantage, but not such a big one that usual combat is pointless. So it allows a reasonable amount of adlibbing.

It also suggests allowing the target a saving throw. I might just ignore that in the case of one-off stunts, or stunts against minion-enemies, but it says it's a useful balancing feature in any case where the stunt might make a big different ("I want to push the lich off the cliff", "I want to disarm EVERY COMBAT").

The wandering monster table is like the audience members who yell out suggestions on an improv show


The wandering monster table is like the audience members who yell out suggestions on an improv show: Simply yelling out “mime” and “airplane” doesn’t make for a comedy show; it requires the improv actors to create a sketch about a mime pilot making an announcement over the plane’s intercom system for that. Similarly, just having random “giant spiders” attack the PCs because the table says so doesn’t make for an adventure; what you need are giant spiders in a particular place for a particular reason and doing a particular thing.

I definitely used to think "wandering monster, huh, why would you do that?" But now, although I haven't tried it, I can see when it could be a useful approach:

You wouldn't necessarily use this when you know in advance somewhere's important, where you hopefully will plan it in advance.

But consider when you're simulating an area more detailed than you can conceivably plan in advance. OK, you're sneaking into an orc camp. You plan the areas, where most orcs are. But they're also going to be wandering about, getting a snack, leaving to scout, etc. You can't plan every single Orc's hunger level. Probably the best way of giving that effect is to say "about every 5 minutes, some orc wanders SOMEWHERE", and if the players are still sneaking about, roll randomly to discover what the orcs are doing.

And the same if the players are exploring a dungeon larger than 5 rooms; it's big enough the monsters probably do wander about, if you're pretending there's some sort of ecology, and if you assume that, it adds a bit of verisimilitude over just "the monsters wait where they are until you find them". And it can also lead to more interesting exploring -- the PCs are not incentivised to always clear through methodically, but to choose trade-offs "safer to hole up for the night or go deeper while we can?"

And it can lead to awesome moments. Some things are more interesting when they happened by chance, which is why there's a random element in combat. If the giant earthworm blunders across the party when they're half-way through crossing a pit-trap, or an NPC party with the very item the party needed are camped in the first room, and everyone knows the GM decided it, it's just "ah, now the GM is screwing with us". But if it's chance, it can lead to hilarious memories.

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Jul. 17th, 2015 @ 12:44 pm Code Geass episodes 23 & 24
Tags: , ,
After the dramatic changes in episode 22, I finally watched the next two (and having seen all of season 1 except the last episode). Now I have all the thoughts, which are major spoilers for the show, but aren't really about the show (so are hopefully ok to read if you don't think you'll watch it).

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Jul. 14th, 2015 @ 05:47 pm DnD 5e: Beginner Roleplaying!
I have written a couple of one-shot adventures for DnD 5e designed to be easy and enjoyable and complete in up to 4h, and run one of them for ghoti et al which I count as a success and was really fun.

Is anyone else interested in playing, even if they can't commit to a regular campaign? Especially anyone who always wanted to try roleplying, or experienced GMs who may offer me some constructive advice, but everyone else too :)

If people are, I will put up a poll for scheduling.

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Jul. 9th, 2015 @ 11:42 am The battlewizard, the priest and the princess in the cave of the ghoul-pirate
Immense thanks to ghoti, cjwatson, and B for helping playtest my 5e one-shot! It definitely needed some polishing, but it went fairly smoothly considering I've never used 5e before and none of them had played DnD before at all.

I might have another write-up with more specifics about what I thought went well and what I think I need to practice on, but I couldn't resist posting a dramatised account of the first half of the adventure. (I hope that's ok?)

Cpt: I'm Captain Amelfica. I'm a trained elf battlemage, veteran of the elf wars. We carried the whole continent then, I don't trust humans or dwarves not to bungle anything, or to just steal it. I'm playing a hardened veteran who's seen it all before, more so than I actually am. (B)
Princess: I'm the swashbuckling princess Miranda, daughter of the Duke. I'm kind-hearted and well meaning but always getting into trouble. (ghoti)
Priest: I'm Miranda's court chaplain, ex-army-chaplain. I think she should stop charging headfirst into caves full of-- come back! (cjwatson)
GM: Your ship is blown off course in a storm, and a threatening spectral visage appeared in the wind, sabotaging the rigging and driving the ship ashore. (Me)
GM: The captains asks for brave volunteers to try to track the spirit and try to drive it off so they can launch the ship again.
GM: Or you're foraging for supplies.
GM: Um, let me check my notes, I can't remember how this bit was meant to go.
GM: If I run this again, I need to make it clearer.
GM: OK, You scramble along the bottom of the cliffs.
GM: Who's going first?
Party: The wizard!
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