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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Game Theory

RPG Lessons from Cloverfield

by Ken Newquist / August 27, 2012

 CloverfieldI've played in a few RPG sessions, mostly one-shots, involving giant rampaging monsters. They've been disappointing because they focus on killing the monster, which reduces this huge lumbering horror to litte more than a 40-story sack of hit points.

At the opposite extreme are monsters who can't be defeated (and I'll admit to unleashing one of these in my campaign; a CR 35 horror that destroyed the city of Stoneheim in the World of Greyhawk). Those can be equally disappointing for players because characters (especially high level ones) think they can defeat anything.

Then again, maybe that's missing the point.

Speculating on Skills in D&D Next

by Ken Newquist / March 26, 2012

Skills are a hot button subject for my gaming group. Most of the guys in my group loved D&D 3.x's approach to skills, which allowed a high degree of granularity and focus in such mundane concerns as crafting and professions. When the D&D 4th Edition dismissed Craft and Profession as un-fun skills, half our group saw red. They still fume about that given time. Others liked 4th Edition's condensed skill list, and focus on adventuring applications over crafting arrows or performing songs.

Naturally D&D Next is concerned about skills, and based on a recent blog post they are clearly looking to retain the customization options that 3.x offers, while making things more streamlined. First, they're talking about making a lot of your day to day "skill checks" using the ability scores. So instead of making a "Climb check", you'd presumably make a Strength check. Second, they also explicitly state they want to retain true skills so that they have a meaningful impact on the game and allow the sort of customization that we saw in 3E (and to a certain extent, 4E).

Thoughts on a One-Hour D&D Game

by Ken Newquist / March 22, 2012

Mike Mearls talks about the concept of a one-hour D&D game in his latest Legends & Lore post. The goal here isn't to boil all D&D games down to 1-hour, but rather to benchmark what you can actually do in an hour. No doubt inspired by his lunchtime D&D sessions, Mearls envisions a game in which you can get in a role-playing encounter, a few quick encounters with traps and/or enemies, and a boss fight.

The Lunchtime Game Master's Toolkit

by Ken Newquist / September 21, 2010

 RPG Blog CarnivalWhen some co-workers and I decided to try our hand at a lunch-time role-playing campaign, I knew that game prep was going to be critical to making it work. But not the sort of game prep I normally did; this was all about the physical game prep.

We're playing The Day After Ragnarok using the Savage Worlds rules, and thanks to Ken Hite's numerous adventure generation tables, the scenarios practically write themselves. No, the part the essential part of making this campaign work was making sure I knew where my towel was.

Dice. Initiative cards. A battle map. Miniatures. I have all of this stuff in my game room ... but we're not playing there. We're in an under-ventilated, odd-smelling basement conference room whose only virtues are privacy, a table, and a dry erase board.

Star Wars: The Storm Dragons of Tarl

by Ken Newquist / July 28, 2010

The storm dragons are magnificent creatures hunt the hurricanes of the storm world of Tarl. The Outer Rim planet's binary stars provide a constant source of energy for its moisture rich atmosphere, giving rise to an unending series of cyclones. The dragons constantly ride these storms, hunting the great airbag herbivores that dwell in storms' eyes and battling each other for arial supremacy.

Vancian Magic in Savage Worlds

by Ken Newquist / May 5, 2010

I love Savage Worlds. Half of the guys in my group love Savage Worlds. But part of what keeps the other half from jumping on board, at least for a fantasy campaign, is the lack of a Vancian magic system (aka the "fire and forget" memorization system from Jack Vance's Dying Earth series and popularized in Dungeons & Dragons). I know that many Savage Worlds fans see this as a feature rather than a bug, but it's a concern with the Blackrazors, who have 12+ years of D&D 2E/3E under their belts.

So what would a Vancian magic system look like in Savage Worlds? There are two key elements to a Vancian system: discovery and flexibility. Discovery comes from being able to find spells in scrolls and spellbooks, and add them to your own growing library. Flexibility comes from being able to pick the right spell for the right job, and not being locked down to a pre-determined power suite.

Recreating a Vancian system in Savage Worlds requires you to retain these discovery and flexibility while still working with its default power point system. Here's my take on it.

The Advantage of Episodic Storytelling in the Star Wars RPG

by Ken Newquist / March 26, 2010

 Rebellion Era Campaign GuideWhen I ran my Dungeons & Dragons/World of Greyhawk campaign, I constantly spawned new subplots, new NPCs, and new locations. It was intentional; my goal was to throw a wide net of possible plotlines, and let the players choose which ones to follow. By campaign's end we probably had hundreds of unresolved storylines, but it wasn't a problem because the important storylines – the defeat of the giants in the Grand Duchy of Geoff, the defeat of the orcish overlord Turrosh Mak, the liberation of Obsidian Bay – did reach their climatic ends.

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