October 2014 Blog Carnival Wrap-up

rpgblogcarnivallogoThe stakes have been pulled out of the ground (and a few corpses) and the RPGA Blog Carnival has moved over to Roleplaying Tips to talk about races, but before you head over there to find out what’s going on, here’s a quick run down of the October posts.

One last thing before we get things rolling here, I have to say thanks to everyone that contributed this month – especially those that contributed multiple times. Like last year the ghouls and goblins came out and enjoyed the numerous posts (along with causing some mischief with the site). I hope I captured everyone here but if I missed you my apologies.

  • To start the month off we were treated to ideas to make undead cool again over at Roleplaying Tips. Undead don’t have to be mindless beasts, give them a society and a motive – check out the post for other ideas.
  • Over at World Builder Blog they started with The Lingering Havoc a bone chilling nightmare than no party should have to deal with. Of course that wasn’t enough, it turned into a month long theme be sure to check the wrap-up post.
  • What would Halloween be without a ghost story or two? Over at Board Enterprises we get a ghost story and how you can play it out in your world. John also shared some of his zombie posts as well.
  • Thanks to General Tangent for a pair of postings, one sharing a true story of the tricks our minds can play on us as children and then a follow up to explain it.
  • Jon over at 5egrognard has been spending a lot of time converting over monsters to 5e rules. If you have some time to wander about his site there are more than a few critters to choose from.
  • Mind Weave Role-Playing treated to a pair of postings as well. First up the Abaddon, a fun warrior devil to throw at your party. It was then followed up the following week with the Drakogeist, which as the name implies is related to dragons.
  • For a change of pace Lizard’s Gaming and Geekery Site gave us the Scorpion Throne, a figure of wonderous power and quite frankly not something I would like to sit on (but wouldn’t mind have in my office).
  • We hit the jackpot with FIVE posts from Enderra, Moon Ghosts, Black Mold, Sewer Worms, The Crowd, and A Short Note on Evil Clowns. Also, be sure to check out his kick off post as it has a few more links to article from his archives on the topic.
  • Then we were off to houserule.com for a classic horror setting and article on how it might apply to your tabletop game.
  • Campaign Mastery then jumped in with another article on undead (What is it with undead and Halloween?). Mike takes us on an interesting thought process about what does it mean to be alive along with positive and negative energies.
  • Playing in a horror campaign was the topic of the post over at RPG Alchemy and Samuel give a number of suggestions and pulls from his own experience to help you get the most out of playing on the player side of the screen.
  • The Moebius Adventures blog had a whole month of posts covering all kinds of ideas for creepy descriptions in our games. Rather then just point to the one post mentioned during the carnival you should check out the whole lot.
  • The Bleeding Scroll then bled for us, and penned 28 Days Later – Changing Just a Little Thing which is part review and part how to take something from a movie and apply it to your game.
  • Hereticwerks then have us Six Altogether Ooksome Things, a half dozen prowlers that you can use to spook your party.
  • Leicester’s Ramble gave us Parasite Zombies, explaining the concept, a example of them in use and of course a stats block.
  • Finally, I’ll plug my own entry, What was that? A plot device? Where I give a few suggestions and a few things to look our for when using a character’s childhood as a plot device.

Thanks again for all who contributed and made this the best carnival I’ve hosted to date. With any luck we’ll be back here again next October for another round of frightening fun.

May your dice roll well!

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What was that? A plot device?

This month’s the blog carnival peers into the darkness and finds . . . .

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A creak heard just outside the bedroom door . . . .

A tapping on the window pane . . . .

A sound of movement under the bed . . . .

Something just went bump in the night.

How many of us remember our childhood filled with such things? How many of us then said to ourselves, “it just nothing, it’s my imagination.”

Now be honest, how many went running to Mom & Dad to protect them?

While this month many of the entries have centered around what is making that noise my thought is, why not use it as a way to develop a character, non-player character, or even the plot line of your story along?

If you think about it for a moment, even in our world those that we look up to for their courage, firemen, police officers, soldiers, were all kids once – did they have fears then? I’m sure many did, so why couldn’t your players’ characters?

When a player says their character was “afraid of the dark,” as a child you need to take the time to develop that. Don’t just let it stand there in the generic sense, there was a reason why they were afraid of the dark. Maybe it was due to others they grew up with, “my older brother use to douse me with ice water when I was asleep.” It might have been caused by a bad experience, “there was a thunderstorm and the house was struck my lightning and we lost everything in the fire.”

Or maybe, just maybe, they were afraid but it was because they couldn’t see what was causing the noise in the dark.

Get the player to describe for you what the sound was like;

  • Was it loud or soft?
  • Did it happen every night?
  • Was it like leaves moving in the wind or more like metal grinding on metal.
  • How did they deal with it when they heard it?
  • Did they have a way of making the noise go away?

Armed with that information a dungeon becomes a bit more interesting. At some point in the trek through the depths of the unknown you can add to your description something that would trigger the memory of that childhood fear – one that maybe the adult isn’t fully over (if the player is willing to play along). You’ve now tapped something that makes the adventure more memorable for everyone, and just maybe given the needed push to get the others to think about what they can add to their own character’s history to help develop them and add to the campaign.

You can also take this same information and use it to build an adventure around the fear and it’s eventual defeat.

“I remember that sound from my childhood. It always came on the night of the full moon. It sounded like a dog panting in my room, but we didn’t have one. Then there was the loud crashing sound that followed, like someone had slammed shut a window.”

Looking at the above you can see the obvious, we can play off a werewolf theme for an adventure.

  • Maybe a town is being terrorized and the howling in the distance on the night of the full moon triggers the memory.
  • A group of kids in the town square are heard describing the same thing the character remembers from their own childhood.
  • Maybe the character receives a message from home, “Son, you need to come home, NOW! Your father has a condition and you might have it as well. I only wish we had known when you were younger.”

As you can see, a small item like a fear of something going bump in the night can give you all kinds of source material to work from.

A few words of warning:

  • Don’t over do it. You want these items to add flavor to the campaign but you may not want them to be the main theme. Of course if your players would like that then by all means do so!
  • Don’t focus on just one character. With any luck you’ll have a couple of players willing to work with you on this and you can spread the “love” around. You need to be sure to do that, you don’t want folks feeling left out.
  • Switch it up. If you do come back to a character more than once, change what’s happening. As you saw above I same up with three ideas, two were definitely related but they weren’t all the same – keep that in mind so your players don’t begin to anticipate what you’re going to throw at them.

I hope that gives you a few things to think about, and hopefully some ideas to put those childhood memories and fears to work.

Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to make sure the flashlight has fresh batteries in it.

May your dice roll well!

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October 2014 Blog Carnival: Things that go bump in the night

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From goulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us! – The Cornish and West Country Litany, 1926

Once again into the darkness of the All Hallows Eve the RPGA Carnival descends to find not the Spooky Spots of last year but instead those things that go bump in the night.

Nearly every person has a story of something that caused the hairs on the back of their necks to stand up, some sound that came from under the bed or a noise just outside the window. It was real to them at the time and who knows, maybe it is.

For this month’s entry into the carnival peer into the inky blackness and share what you find there, is it ghost, ghoul, or some creature with long razor sharp nails that leave it’s mark on the wall for us to find in the morning?

Or maybe you’d rather share how a tale like this can be woven into a story line in a campaign. Did you use the story to scare the characters (or maybe even the players)? Was it a plot device? Do tell!

rpgblogcarnivallogoAs always, if you decide to partake of the Carnivals delights this month leave a comment below with a link to where we’ll be able to find it so that the stories can be shared an a few more can scream in the night.

Did I hear something or was it my imagination?

I hope my dice roll well!

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April 2014 Blog Carnival: The Game Master’s Binder – That’s a Wrap

rpgblogcarnivallogoIt may have taken a while for the posts to come but thanks to those that contributed to this month’s blog carnival The Game Master’s Binder.

After my initial offering which covered my use of Evernote as my GM Binder we were privileged to hear from another half dozen bloggers on the topic.

Over at The Warehouse of Trinkets an interesting take on the topic, using a catalog instead of a binder. The thought is that carrying a folder with a number of RPG related items in it serves as a great resource for the GM when pressed into service. I like the idea as it’s similar to my ‘ideas’ notebook but it takes it a step further by including free RPG rules as well.

We next get a distinctively different feel from The Gaming Blog of General Tangent who, being British, lends an international point of view and gives us an interesting post that shares his binder evolution. Here’s another example of someone that has moved through paper into digital and shares some of the challenges that having your campaign material tied up in desktop software brings to the table.

Phil over at Tales of a GM shares his journey as well. He’s settled on a ‘mix and match’ setup that combines both the digital and analog worlds. What makes this article is that Phil takes some time to explain his issues with using technology – things like power and space for the laptop. I can definitely sympathize with his issues as I encountered a number of them when I used a laptop as a player and had a tendency to actually need more space than most of the other players (often needing more space than the GM!), go figure.

Over at World Builder Blog James starts us on his journey, from the composition notebook. I remember using these for school but not as a place to keep my GM notes. James then goes on to share some of his Google Drive setup and how he uses email and a wiki to keep his players informed. He also takes some time to share the other tools he uses to store items relating to his campaign and what tool he’s looking forward to using in the future (assuming it does make it to the Mac).

So, please raise your hand if you ever programmed your own GM binder/screen system. I know I made a feeble attempt at one many, many, moons ago but that’s exactly the idea behind the binder that Elthos RPG shares with us. We start with the humble beginnings of a self made screen and then move through the creation of his current tool.

We close out the month with the evolution of the binder of RPGames.be. This post, like many of the ones before it, chronicles the move from paper, to digital, to something of a mix. What makes this binder’s final form interesting is that it is not just a combination of paper and software, but also the GM’s gaming blog as well (something I’ve tried in the past myself and may do again).

So there you have it, the wrap up for the April Blog Carnival be sure to check out all Blog Carnival’s Home Page for a full listing of all the carnivals that have been run.

May your dice roll well.

Update: We have one more entry that I missed when I wrote the wrap-up: A GM Notebook’s Evolution where we see the move once again from paper to electronic. This time the move is into a wiki and Google Docs and there’s also a cautionary tale about tossing out your old notes.

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My GM binder? Evernote of course!

rpgblogcarnivallogoSo for this month’s blog carnival we’re taking a look at one of a Game Master’s most prized possessions, the GM Binder.

I know many still use a three-ring binder for this and in fact for my last multi-year campaign I did the same. It had dividers in it, graph paper, campaign notes, world notes, and all sorts of other items that were collected during the course of the campaign. Now, finding something in all of that was easy when we played three times a month, go to once every three months and it gets a bit harder. Trying to locate a specific detail about a town, or an NPC, became difficult the longer the campaign ran (I stopped publishing the named NPC list when it crossed the 100 mark).

In a past post I mentioned that I was moving to Evernote for my next campaign and it’s to combat the items above – sheer volume of material and being able to find what I need at that moment at the table.

For those that read Johnn Four’s Roleplaying Tips Newsletter you may have caught my recent article containing a few tips on using Evernote as a GM, please bear with me as this will look familiar.

I should also state up front that this is a work in progress and the manner in which I’m storing things may change over time – I’ll be sure to pass along updates in the future.

Also, I’m going to make a small assumption that you know something about Evernote – sorry about that, if I include all the background I’m not sure I’ll ever finish this post. (I am planning a number of future posts where I’ll go into a bit more detail on what follows.)

In order to make things easier to find in my “binder” I’m going to use an abbreviation or code to mark all my notes. This code needs to be specific to the campaign but since I haven’t named the campaign yet (it may sound strange to some but the campaign name is something I trust to the gods – it will reveal itself in time) I’m using the code “cpgn” which is short for campaign, for now. A simple edit of the tags later will change everywhere I’ve used it.

rpg-notebook-setupSo now that tagging is out of the way, I’ve created a notebook stack so that I can keep some semblance of order to my notes. As I’m still in the creation stage the stack is fluid but as you can see I’ve got a section for the NPCs, PCs, Plot Ideas, and Setting. Once the campaign gets rolling I’ll likely add sections for Session Notes and possibly a public notebook which the players will be able to access.

As I work through the creation of the campaign (and eventually running it) each time I want to add something to my ‘GM Notebook’ I simply create a new note, tag it accordingly (so it doesn’t get lost), and file it in the appropriate section.

The nice thing about using Evernote as my binder is that it is always with me. I have it installed on my phone, tablet and all my computers. If by chance I need to use it anywhere else I can pull it up on the web.

Now, I should mention that only the PC and Mac versions will have all your notes right there handy for you unless you’re a Premium user. The phone and tablet versions can create an ‘offline notebook’ which will store everything in that notebook locally (as well as sync it to the cloud) so you never have to worry about whether you’ll have access or not.

What about your binder? Why not write something up and link to the carnival this month I know I’d like to know what others are using.

May your dice roll well.

Don’t have Evernote? Sign up through my Evernote referral link and get a free month of Premium Service.

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