RPGBlog

This is a collection of the RPG Circus Blog Items.

Season 3 Episode 2 - The Episode That Almost Wasn't

Welcome to Season 3 Episode 2 of RPG Circus

Episode Topics

  • Digital Cartography
  • Memories of Gaming Groups in Our Youth



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RPG Circus Season 3 Episode 1 - And So It Begins Again

Welcome to Season 3 Episode 1 of RPG Circus

Episode Topics

  • What Mark Learned From Doing D&D 4e Encounters
  • Our Views on the D&D 4e Fortune Cards



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RPG Circus Season 2 Episode 23 - Winter Solstice Fun

Welcome to Season 2 Episode 23 of RPG Circus

Episode Topics

  • DnD 4e Home Encounters
  • Listener Question about a Game for those that like it Crunchy and those that don't
  • Interview with Alex Flagg of Crafty Games



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RPG Circus Season 2 Episode 22 - We Never Met Nevermet Press

Welcome to Season 2 Episode 22 of RPG Circus

Episode Topics

  • Interview with Jonathan Jacobs and Paul King of Nevermet Press
  • Ammunition in Roleplaying Games
  • Time Travel in Roleplaying Games



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RPG Circus Season 2 Episode 21 - The D6s Have It. (Revised)

Sorry for the Repeat, but since someone pointed out how bad a certain section was, we went ahead and edited the Episode.

Welcome to Season 2 Episode 21 of RPG Circus

Episode Topics

  • Mini6 Review
  • History and Versions of Traveller
  • Running Large Parties



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Using Mind Mapping for your RPG Planning

When planning something for your game, there are many ways to do this. One way is to make lists of things. This can get rather cumbersome after a while. One could also just type notes in a word document or even some basic text editor. You could use a wiki like TiddlyWiki. While all these may work for you, I suggest you might try another approach. It’s called Mind Mapping.

From Wikipedia

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid to studying and organizing information, solving problems, making decisions, and writing.

What’s nice about Mind Mapping is that you can use it with just a piece of paper and some pens. Below is an example from Wikipedia of a non-RPG related Mind Map.

Of course you may want to use software to do the same thing. Here is an example from Wikipedia for a computer based display of a mind map.

As a matter of fact, you can find a freeware mind mapping program called Freemind at http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page . The nice thing about this program is that it has versions for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. You may even be able to run it on other platforms because it’s written in Java.

Even without software, it’s pretty easy to make a mind map. You just have to follow some basic rules. First thing you need to do is place your central idea in the center of the page. Usually, you draw a circle or something around it. From there you draw branches (lines) to sub-ideas. The nice things is that you should worry about having too many or too few branches. They suggest that you use curved lines to attach branches. You should also use as few words as possible on each branch. The idea is stimulate your mind and not get bogged down in the details. Remember this is all about brainstorming, you may want to write something down even if you don’t use it.

Here is an example of a haunted house adventure.

As you can see, I have some ideas I may not use at all here. I just wanted to get them down so I could use them. I’d be very interested in know if anyone has used this technique and any additional advice they could give. If you have not used this technique, I’d like to know what you think of it.

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Review: Fantasy Craft - Adventure Companion

Some of you may now that I have talked about what is standard fantasy. I talked about how none of can agree on what it means, but yet we all seem to claim there is one. Well, I happy to say that Adventure Companion by Crafty Games is anything but Standard Fantasy.

As a matter of fact, it contains only one campaign world that is even close to what some may call standard fantasy. I say only one because it contains three detailed campaign worlds and a slew of classes and feats that go along with each one. Now Adventure Companion is for Crafty Games' Fantasy Craft. I don't think that should stop you from picking it up and reading it thought. It might just fuel your imagination for the next game you run.

I'm going to start off with my favorite of the three settings. They call it “Cloak & Dagger”. If one were to try to put it in a nutshell, I think I would call it Roman Empire with political infighting. For players, I know that being set in a roman era may take a bit of getting use to. After all, there are no fighters wearing full plate wielding a long sword walking down the street. Instead, you have a roman like centurion wearing a breastplate holding a gladius. But that's not the only change for most people. Players are involved in the political battle between various factions of the empire trying to control it. For those that might not know what adventures players may have, I suggest you watch the old Three Musketeer movies. I should note that I like the ones with Michael York myself over some of the more modern versions (yes Disney, I'm talking to you).

The next setting is a little more familiar to people. Called 'Epoch', it is more of a swords and sorcery type of setting. Although, I'm not sure that exactly does it justice. The players are the barbarians/tribesmen that are trying to stop the evil that lurks and disguises itself in the form of civilization. Unlike most games, the players are not going to be able to go into town and just replace and buy new equipment all the time. As a matter fact, it is suggested that the player be allowed to repair their equipment. Magic is a form or corruption and is a enemy rather than a tool to be used by the players without consequence. If you look at movie like Conan (the first one and not the second one) and Beastmaster, you get an idea what kind of setting and adventures one can have here.

Lastly, they have as setting called 'Sunchaser'. This is a more typical High Fantasy game. I say that because it assumes that the player are going to be doing epic things. It is a setting where little is know about the old world before the coming of the new world. This allows for many things to be found by the players. Ancient knowledge and hidden ruins await the adventure who dares to tread into the unknown. It is a call of the Hero type setting. That is to not say that it is boring but it does give you a slightly better grasp of what the setting is about.

Each campaign has information to help you play in that setting. These things include various classes and feats. It also takes about trade and gear for each settings. Each section provides a list of adventure concepts, themes, oppositions, and rewards. Each campaign also gets a few monsters specific to that setting.

Overall, I had to rate this purchase as a buy. If you play Fantasy Craft, you are going to want to get it in hardcover. Even if you play another fantasy game, I'd suggest that you pick it up in PDF format, so you can use it as a source of inspiration for your next campaign.

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RPG Circus Season 2 Episode 20 - From Low to High Level

Welcome to Season 2 Episode 20 of RPG Circus

Episode Topics

  • Low Level Gaming
  • Med Level Gaming
  • High Level Gaming

Yes, that's right. It's a trifecta of gaming topics.


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The Lost Art of Dealing the Hand You Were Dealt.

The other day, I came across the Critical Hit's Post on playing the new Gamma World. What struck me was how much fun was had with a somewhat random character. This got me to thinking about how many of my personal favorite characters have been from games where character generation is a lot more random than we normally get today and sometimes with constraints we don't normally have either.

It seems typical in many Role-playing Games today that there is very little randomization in character generation. In many systems the only thing that may be random is stat generation. It's also a common trend to not even have that amount of randomization in character creation.

Now most games are not completely random. One that is pretty close is the old versions of Traveller. I've heard Traveller Character creation as a game within a game. Which I suppose is a very good description since characters could actually die during character creation because of a failed survival roll.

At this point I'm sure that you are thinking, well what good is having a random character anyway. After all, I'm sure you just have fifty or sixty good character concepts (and no doubt original concepts) in mind when you generate your characters. What I think we miss out on with more random characters is the chance to flex our mental and creative muscles. No, that is not a misprint. With a random collection attributes, skills, powers, and whatever else was generated at random, we have to ask who is this character? Where did they come from? Why do they have these skills or powers? Even if a game system only has certain elements that random, we need to think about this.

Let me give an example. In an AD&D game, I had the following stats; Str 9, Int 17, Wis 12, Dex 12, Con 14, Chr 10. This was doing to having to roll them in order of appearance on the character sheet and no moving attributes around. Now, what class would you make this character. Likely, you said Magic-User (which is what we called Wizards in AD&D). Which normally is the choice for a character with high intelligence. However, the party was already magic heavy. What was needed was a fighter. So, yes with a mere 9 strength, a fighter was born. The choice of fighter was not random. The fact that the attributes were and other factors forced me into a fighter role did however make me start asking questions. Why is this character a fighter? Why didn't he become a magic user? I decided that the character thought all Magic-Users were stupid and didn't know how to operate in the real world and he didn't want to be one those types of people. in the short amount of time that character was played, it seems the group proved that character right as he always seemed to save the magic using characters from their own stupidity.

I guess my real point is that sometimes I think we over think character creation. We get stuck into getting the best character we can. We forget that some of the best characters are those with flaws and are less than optimal choices. I guess I like the thought that sometimes those without natural aptitude in something excel and thrive in that area of endeavor. So what has been your experiences in this area? Have you ever found that more random and constrained characters can be more fun than something that spent hours trying to get just right?

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The Rule Of Law

You know the drill, the players' characters stumble into town and procedure to interact with people in any sort of manner they see fit. They destroy property. They vanquish evil doers (and not so evil doers) without too much issue. They let lose all manner of mighty magics without even a second thought. While such actions can be accomplished out in the wild without any real issue, shouldn't a place of civilization be different? Are your towns nothing more than wild lands with more people in them, where the players can get a hot meal, get healed, and sell their treasure? Does your town even have laws?

In all my years of Role-Playing, few in game place seem to have any laws or restrictions that have any real meaning. Do not get me wrong, I think most players operate under the assumption that there are some basic laws in place. Although, most players seem to operate above them or without regard for them in any case.

Right now, some of you may be asking so what and that's OK. The truth is that generally speaking, it's not a big deal in most games. Still, I think we lose but not having some sort of reminder that there are laws in the land. In many ways, the games that many of us play in is sort of like the Hollywood version of the Wild West. A place were there are laws, but very little enforcement. Now there are some games where that makes a lot of sense. Even with just a few select laws that affect the players' characters in some way, creates a more dynamic environment for play. Let's take an example.

In a fantasy game, the players enter a fortified town. They encounter an evil assassin and defeat him. In most games, the players would just loot the body and move on to the next thing. I'm sorry but that's a bit boring. What if rather the fight was seen and the town guard is arriving to take over. What do the players do? Do they run and hide? Do they hide the body? Hell, do they wait for the town guard to arrive and try to explain things? Do they need to bribe the town guard to prevent the town guard from taking them to the local magistrate? Do they fight the town guard? By even making the killing something that the town guard would have to investigate, you have just made the players' lives more interesting. I not say that they players are in any real trouble, but they will have to deal with the law and that may influence their actions.

Of course one could also use laws to influence a certain setting feel as well. Maybe you want to have a setting where the common people are fearful of magic. Have laws that ban magic or require that arcane magic users to have licenses to practice could help reinforce that to the players. Actually this concept was quite common in some of the earlier settings. I know of at least two old settings that have mention the idea of requiring a permit to use magic within a cities walls. I can just see a player talking to the town guard saying, “Yes, I killed blood beetle with my Magic Missile and no, I don't have a permit”. “What do you mean, I'm going to have to go with you? You should be thanking me!”

So, does your game have any Legal laws that affect the players? Are they used to help enforce a setting concept or they just there for your own local amusement? Please let me know. I'm always interested in finding out what other people are doing.

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