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Showing posts from 2023

A Reality Check for Language Rules in Your Fantasy Game (and rationalizing alignment languages)

People enjoy being impressed by multilingualism. “Wow, Mary speaks seven languages !” One hears this kind of thing. It sounds amazing. Speaking a lot of languages seems to mean you are especially intelligent. (As I will explain, this is not really so.) If you tested Mary and her seven languages, you would find she is not equally capable in all of them. She’ll have one, or maybe two, main languages of daily use with high fluency and a wide range of expressiveness, but varying and limited degrees of proficiency in the others. It’s cool to be able to order food at a restaurant and to ask for and receive directions in Italian, but that doesn’t mean you can have a profound conversation about your feelings or discuss the aesthetics of nineteenth-century paintings or explain physics in Italian. You know enough to get by in those other languages, and that’s all. It’s also a lot easier to learn to read a language with a dictionary than it is to attain spoken conversational fluency. Peop

Hey, D&D and Indie Game YouTubers: cite your sources

 D&D and Indie RPG YouTubers! Yes, you. We know you read a lot of gamer blogs. You should be referring by name to the blogs from which you derive information and content, or even just inspiration. It's a simple courtesy to tip your hat toward the bloggers whose efforts are behind your own. It's not about views. It's about honesty, fairness, kindness, and good manners. It also contributes to a sense of community. Cite your sources and inspirations. It takes very little time.

Trust the Dice for Your Fiction

Sometimes, GMs, you could trust the dice more to work for your game's fiction. Let me explain what I mean. Gamers like to come up with more and more rules to specify outcomes of complex fantasy situations that emerge as we narrate events in the game. It's been a basic impulse since D&D began to make house rules adding complexity to take account of the things players want to know. Where did your arrow hit the barbarian warrior? We want to know. Hit location rules and tables give some answers, but those are complex and can slow play. And then, once we know that the arrow hit the barbarian's leg, or arm, or chest, we want that to matter . More rules pile on to explain how it matters. Instead of making a new game rule or subsystem for each particular situation, or a new ruling, the dice as they are can decide the outcome with the parameters you already have . The parameters for "success" and "failure" with the dice are already fictional. You can just le

Character Motivation is the Player's Responsibility

Sometimes players of adventure games stop and ask, "Wait, why am I risking my life in this dangerous adventure?" They balk at entering the dungeon, braving the Weird Woods, or seeking the dragon's hoard. "Why would I ever do that?" somebody asks. Referees, you should beat them to the punch. You ask them this question. I have been known to go around the table and ask each player at the beginning of a session, "Why are you on this adventure?" And they understand that they need to motivate their PCs. I get answers like, "I'm searching for a magic object--let me come up with the details later." "Okay," I say. Another: "I want to prove to my village that I'm better than all of them after they picked on me! I'm going to get rich and powerful. Eventually, I'll return home and I'll be the boss." "Okay," I say. "My father was a treasure-hunter and I want to make him proud." "Okay,"

Name Your Sessions Afterwards

I picked up on a conversation about whether you (the GM) should tell your players the title of the adventure they are entering. Some adventure titles include spoilers. The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is an adventure title you can tell your players. It's even enticing. They will want to discover what the secret is. Shadows over Bögenhafen is another that does no harm if they players hear it beforehand. Both of these titles just give some setting information and then tell you there's something spooky happening. Night's Dark Terror is one of the great modules, but the name is among the most boring. Still, it's safe to share. (If I was a player and I heard that was the name of my current adventure, I would assume that it was about vampires.) A title like Shrine of the Kuo-Toa tells them too much. They know there's a shrine and they know the creatures that inhabit it. Dwellers of the Forbidden City tells you exactly what's coming. If you run Mi-Go A-Go-Go for

The First Rumor Tables, Part 2: Caverns of Thracia or Caverns of Quasqueton?

My last post (yesterday) stated that the earliest known "rumor table" in a role-playing game module was the one in Mike Carr's B1 In Search of the Unknown , which featured the dungeon known as The Caverns of Quasqueton. Read that other post first to understand this one. Paleologos left a comment there pointing out that Judges Guild 102 The Caverns of Thracia had a rumor table, too. I have read that module but I never knew it in the old days. So, I took a closer look. Now it gets interesting. We have a tiny mystery here, folks. The Caverns of Thracia was published in 1979 (not 1980 as the friendly commenter wrote). It was early enough in 1979 that a second printing was called for in the same year . But the weird thing is that the rumor table in Thracia is structured exactly like the one in B1. It explains, under the heading "The Taverns of Thracia" (ha ha), that you roll 1d4 and determine whether the player gets 1, 2, 3, or 0 rumors. Then you roll 1d20 per r

The First Rumor Tables

Role-playing game modules that emulate a putative "old school" often include tables of rumors that the referee can give out to the players. Rumors are a fun way to convey setting information and hints that motivate players to explore and form goals. Where did the rumor table begin? It wasn't part of original D&D. It was never a part of the rules themselves. Rumor tables came with modules . The first modules are from 1975 ("The Temple of the Frog" in Arneson's Blackmoor supplement to OD&D) and 1976 ("The Palace of the Vampire Queen" by third party Wee Warriors; "The Tomb of F'Cherlak" by Jaquays in Dungeoneer magazine). Early tournament scenarios used at conventions were also one of the main bases for early modules. These earliest published dungeons didn't have rumor tables. The earliest example of a rumor table I can think of is from the module B1, "In Search of the Unknown," by Mike Carr. It was originally prod