7 Ways to Use Good Drama In Your Game

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Drama between the players of your gaming group can be a negative experience. But drama in your game can be a good thing. This week we’re going to talk about 7 ways to embrace “good” drama to enrich your games.

Before we can talk about “good” drama, we need to talk about what counts as “bad” drama. In general, bad drama is any decision in-or-out of character that negatively affects the enjoyment of the rest of the table.

Everyone’s goal is to have fun and enjoy the game you are playing. As a member of the game, you need to make sure that your actions aren’t depriving anyone else of having fun. Justifying your actions as “something that your character would do” doesn’t matter. Your character isn’t a real person. It only does what you decide it does, and if your decision would harm someone’s fun, then it is your responsibility to NOT do that.

 What? I'm Chaotic Neutral

What? I'm Chaotic Neutral

Now, let’s talk about ways to create “good” drama.

1.       Set Expectations

The most important thing you can do is talk about your expectations, playstyle, and comfort levels before beginning the game. This is at the player level, and should be done before you talk about characters.

Once everyone is on the same page, you can talk about your characters. Build characters that have connections or each other, or establish elements of their backstory that can be woven into confrontations.

2.       What Problems Do You Want?

 Currently my favorite RPG

Currently my favorite RPG

The conflict that a character faces can shape who they are. Are you a person that stays optimistic even in the face of despair? It’s easy to say that, but the character’s actions prove it to be true or false. Sometimes there is an intentional disconnect between what a CHARACTER wants, and what a PLAYER wants.

Masks does a great job of building this into their classes (playbooks). Each playbook has a type of drama or conflict that you will deal with. The Nova, for example, is very powerful but has poor control of their powers, causing collateral damage. The CHARACTER wants to avoid excessive damage, but the PLAYER has indicated they want to deal with these problems by picking the playbook. Occasionally having them cause collateral damage and deal with its repercussions is something that the PLAYER wants to deal with, even if the CHARACTER doesn’t.

3.       Interact with Players

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The GM is in charge of all the NPCs that you might interact with, but great sources of drama come from two (or more!) players interacting with each other.

In order to add more to the story, you can create drama between two PCs. Maybe you have conflicting ideals. Maybe someone has unreciprocated feelings for another character. Find something that both players are ok with doing, and make drama!

The great thing about player driven drama is that it is often at the forefront of the story. Unlike an NPC, which fades from sight when not involved, the players are always there.

This is really useful for games that are played for an audience like actual play podcasts or livestreams. The audience sees this conflict, and knows that it is always there. A conflict with an NPC is put on hiatus until that NPC comes back into the picture.

4.       Act Unreasonably

 "You know what? I punch him."

"You know what? I punch him."

It’s hard to do sometimes, but your character doesn’t always have to act rationally. Sometimes they’re afraid. Sometimes they’re too angry to think. Have them act in a way that creates drama with another character.

Are you the healer, and you’re angry at another character? Tell the player how you are intentionally prioritizing healing someone else first, or are healing them less than you normally would. The important thing here is that you told the PLAYER what you were doing, and thus what the drama is. If you kept it to yourself, it might have been missed, or maybe the PLAYER thought you were lashing out. And back to our original point, if not healing them would kill their character, then maybe don’t do that. Remember, the point is for everyone to have fun. If having their character die would hurt them, then it is in your power to not use that idea.

On the flip side, maybe your character is acting overly sensitive. Maybe they THINK the healer is healing them less than they should. The character can harbor the resentment, and eventually confront the healer in a dramatic fashion.

5.       Support the Narrative

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Your drama doesn’t need to always be in the front. When other players have drama, act to support one of their sides. Allow yourself to be a supporting character in their story arc. Don’t make it about yourself, and take actions that either heighten the drama or allow it to continue.

6.       Make an Ultimatum

 It all boils down to those romance options

It all boils down to those romance options

“It’s either me or him! Make your choice!”

The ultimatum is a great way of bringing drama to a head. Sometimes unreasonable, an ultimatum forces a decision to be made, or lines to be drawn.

An ultimatum can change the direction of the narrative. Perhaps a character decides to strike out on their own, or change their core beliefs. Embrace the new direction, and try to support it.

7.       Apologize and Forgive

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If you want the characters to all continue working together, someone will probably need to apologize. Don’t wait for the other party to, because they might be waiting for the same thing. Have the character apologize, and renew their intention to work together with everyone.

On the flip side, don’t hold a grudge for too long. If another character apologizes for something, this is your chance to accept the apology and wrap up the dramatic arc. You can always look for a new source of drama later!

 

Player driven drama, when done right, can bring a game and its characters to life. Follow these tips, and remember to be open about your intentions to your fellow gamers. Everyone deserves to have a fun gaming experience.

4 Ways To Handle Passive Perception

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There has been some talk about the role of Passive Perception in D&D 5e recently. As with all things D&D, there are lots of opinions and preferences based on personal style and interpretation. In addition to chiming in with my thoughts, I wanted to collect some of the different ways I’ve seen Passive Perception handled, and talk about the effects of using these methods.

Before we start, let’s talk about what Passive Perception is.

 Sorry, the DC to spot the trap was 82.

Sorry, the DC to spot the trap was 82.

Passive checks in D&D 5e are a special type of ability check that doesn’t require a roll. It can represent the average result of taking your time on a task (taking 10/20 from earlier editions), or when the GM wants to determine success/failure without having someone roll dice.

Passive Perception is specifically mentioned in regards to hiding, which is an action you can take. It determines if you notice a creature attempting to hide.

Aside from the general rules for passive checks and the specific Passive Perception rules with hiding, there’s not a lot of guidance on how to use it, which can be both a good and bad thing. Passive Perception can speed up certain elements of play, but can also make knowing what information to share with a player difficult.

Here are 4 ways to use Passive Perception, and how they affect your game.

 

1.       Stealth Only

 13th Age's Prince of Shadows

13th Age's Prince of Shadows

Passive Perception only happens specifically with noticing hidden creatures, it has no effect or use on hidden objects. In order to find a trap, you need to make active checks and rolls. If you don’t actively look for a trap, you won’t find it.

The benefits of this method are tied to the benefits of Passive Perception in general. You don’t need to make extra dice rolls for stealth, and you don’t have to unintentionally put a player on edge by asking them to make a Perception check out of the blue.

This can initially make detecting traps harder, as a player has to be on guard and actively look for something. However, this can slow down the game if the players become worried about the presence of traps. If they need to take action to look for traps, you might run into a situation where they declare they’re looking for traps in every room and encounter.

2.       Clues

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Clue based Passive Perception turns finding traps and hidden objects into a bit of a skill challenge. Your Passive Perception will tell you a simple fact, or give a simple clue to the true nature of whatever is nearby. For example, a long hallway is filled with flame traps. Your passive perception might tell you that there are scorch marks on the floor. From that point on, you are now active, and are trying to solve it with active rolls and role playing.

This method can get rid of the ‘surprise’ factor of traps, as many Passive Perception scores are high enough to notice something. However, disabling or overcoming traps feels better to players than being surprised by one.

A good way to handle clues from Passive Perception is to roll them into the description of a room or hallway. Mention the long hallway’s stonework, the moss growing on it, and the scorch marks all at the same time. This can help conceal the fact that they were specifically given a clue due to their Passive Perception, and relies on natural response and problem-solving to proceed.

3.       Sherlock Sense

 It's elementary...

It's elementary...

This is the most powerful way to handle Passive Perception for a player. Your Passive Perception gives you the most amount of information possible, usually specifying where the trap trigger/pressure plate is. In essence, you are telling your players WHAT the problem is and WHERE the solution is.

With Sherlock sense, most traps are handled quickly and easily. It might still require an ability check to disable or bypass the trap, but the process is streamlined.

Traps are rarely a threat with this mode, unless the DC to spot it is higher than a player’s Passive Perception. Players do not have to worry about searching for traps as much, and might see them as a minor hindrance. This can speed up the exploration phase of the game, giving more time to other elements.

4.       Minimum Roll

 How did I NOT see the zombie T-Rex?

How did I NOT see the zombie T-Rex?

This isn’t part of the Rules As Written (RAW), but I’ve seen some discussion about using Passive Perception as a minimum for your Perception. If you would roll lower than your Passive Perception, you use it instead.

Keep in mind, this isn’t how Passive Perception was meant to be used. It also steps on the toes of a high level rogue ability, Reliable Talent.

I wouldn’t recommend using this option. I’ve seen it come up when trying to explain how you can achieve a worse result than if you weren’t actively trying.

It’s important to remember that D&D and its mechanics aren’t trying to mirror or mimic reality. Your Passive Perception isn’t the worst that you can do at the task. It’s a useful mechanic for abstracting and getting rid of extra dice rolls at the table.

 You're having fun wrong!

You're having fun wrong!

There are certainly many other ways that you can handle Passive Perception. Remember, rule 0 is having fun, and whatever your table likes best is the right answer. Even if it’s #4.

 

Do you have another method for handling Passive Perception that doesn’t fall into one of these categories? Let me know!

Fully Funded: Archive of Magic Items!

I'm happy to announce that the Archive of Magic Items has been fully funded!

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We have 4 days left to hit our first stretch goal ($5,000). It's going to be close, but it's still a possibility.

I've been posting previews from Archive, here are some fun ones to take a look at.

 

 

There are 4 days left, so if you've been thinking about jumping in on this book, now is the time!

After the Kickstarter wraps up, there will be more regularly scheduled posts from Pirate Gonzalez Games!

 

Pokemon D&D 5e: Johto Pokedex

Johto Pokedex

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The Johto pokedex for D&D 5e is now here!

I hope you enjoy the all of the pokemon from the Gold and Silver games, which were my favorite!

I applied more of my monster creation knowledge to these pokemon, but beware! They haven't been tested in the field yet. There may be some unintentional imbalances, so just look them over before you use them in your 5th edition D&D game. I also tried to cover a wide variety of CRs for the pokemon, so don't expect them to be as strong or weak as they were in the games!

I also made these stat blocks a different way than the Kanto pokedex, so if you see something wrong, let me know and I can easily fix it! You can give me a shout on twitter @pirategonzalez.

Thanks for checking the pokemon out! If you enjoyed this, please consider checking out my Kickstarter for 5e, the Archive of Magic Items! It's a collection of 350+ unique, interesting items for your 5e game.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All!

(You can download a consolidated PDF of the pokedex here.)

Kickstarter is Live: The Archive of Magic Items!

It's finally here! The project I've been working on for literally years, the Archive of Magic Items!

I've put together a book of over 350 unique, interesting magic items for D&D 5e (it's closer to 400, but I'm keeping it conservative).

I've also included some new features in the book, such as:

  • Unique ways to attune to items
  • Suggestions for using an item at a higher or lower level
  • Magitech!

Check it out! There's a ton of really cool stuff in here, and I'll be releasing previews throughout the month. Tell your friends about it!

But really, please tell them. I need your help with the word of mouth!

Check out the Kickstarter here, and stay tuned for more updates!

 

Tell me about your favorite magic items that aren't in 5e!

Domain of Smash Bros

YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN

Did you hear the good news? Smash Bros is coming to the Nintendo Switch, and I can't wait to play it.

The announcement trailer was surprisingly intense. The squid kids from Splatoon find themselves in a dark landscape illuminated only by the fiery light of the Smash Bros symbol, and the silhouettes of the fighters.

The Smash Bros symbol had an almost supernatural feel to it. It seemed like a holy symbol of sorts.

The idea of a supernatural being that selects the best fighters across the universe fits right into D&D. I created a brand new domain for Clerics, the Domain of Smash Battles, with that in mind. Check it out!

Homebrewery Link: https://homebrewery.naturalcrit.com/share/HyWF3UH4tz

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Johto Pokedex 5E

Johto Pokedex

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The Johto pokedex for 5E will be coming soon!

Ages ago I created the Kanto pokedex, a book containing the stats of the original 151 pokemon for D&D 5e.

After the success of the Kanto pokedex, I’d received inquiries about doing a johto pokedex. At the time, I wasn’t able to do a new pokedex. The time commitment was too large, and I wanted to work on some other projects first (cough cough, Archive of Magic Items).

Well, it has now been long enough, and the Johto pokedex is almost ready to debut!

I’m excited about this version, because I’ve learned a lot about monster creation since the original Kanto pokedex. Many of the pokemon I stated were very powerful or imbalanced. I’ve applied what I’ve learned since then, and you should see a more balanced array of pokemon. Don’t get me wrong, there are still going to be some outliers, but since I’m not going to playtest each pokemon, we’ll have to live with that. Feel free to let me know if you see anything significant though!

Here are some previews from the pokedex! If you’re interested in when the full pokedex releases, follow me for updates!

Click here if you want to see the Kanto pokedex.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All!

My Hero Academia- Masks

 Plus Extra!

Plus Extra!

My Hero Academia is an excellent anime, featuring a group of classmates going to the number 1 high school for aspiring super heroes. An ensemble of interesting characters makes it seem like a living, breathing world.

In this setting, the majority of people are born with “quirks”, or super powers. Some are minor mutations, and others are big, flashy and powerful. Because of this change, being a professional super hero is a valid career, with a salary and everything.

Young kids with quirks that want to be superheroes apply to U.A, the number one high school for super heroes. Aside from their normal classes, they also receive training on using and developing their quirks, and becoming stellar super heroes.

I’ve been playing a lot of the Masks Role Playing Game lately, and the show captures a lot of the important elements from the game. Big emotions, dramatic scenes, and developing powers are all important in Masks, and the show has them in spades.

I’ve listed some of the main characters from My Hero Academia, and assigned them a corresponding playbook in Masks. If you want to play a character from My Hero Academia, this might help you get the right feel!

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Izuku Midoriya- Midoriya is the main character of the show, and fits within a few possible playbooks. The Legacy is the immediate fit, as Midoriya literally has All Might’s legacy. The Doomed could also work, if you consider All Might’s impending death and the overall villain of the story as the possible ‘Doom’. The Protégé models Midoriya’s leadership and analytical skills, and keeps All Might directly connected to the playbook.

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Katsuki Bakugo. He’s The Bull, absolutely. Bakugo’s personality aligns perfectly with the Bull; you even get to pick a rival!

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Ochako Uraraka- The Nova is the closest fit, especially since it has gravity control. Her quirk is more support focused, so you can pick moves and abilities that allow you to support others and manipulate the environment.

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Tenya Iida- The Legacy. His family are superheroes, and he is following in their footsteps. Give him a super speed power and you're good to go.

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Shoto Todoroki- The Nova. His powers are big, flashy, and easy to lose control. Elemental control is also one of the standard options with the Nova as well.

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Yuga Aoyama- The Star. Rather, he wants to be The Star.

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Tsuyu Asui- This one is tough. Asui is a strong, stable influence. She’s almost handled better as an NPC, as she seems unlikely to get into arguments or fights like other characters. She could be a modified Janus or The Joined.

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Momo Yaoyorozu- Her family is wealthy, so the Protégé would be a good fit. Because all of the kids in the anime have powers, The Beacon will almost never be used. However, because she creates mundane objects, an argument for the Beacon can be made.

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Mezo Shoji- The Transformed. His body is obviously weird, and his associated powers align with the Transformed.

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Eijiro Kirishima- He’s a good candidate for the Bull. He tries to overcome obstacles with brute force.

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Mina Ashido- The Outsider! I know she’s not really an alien, but she looks just like the default picture. She even references how alien she looks!

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Toru Hagakure- Because her only quirk is invisibility, the closest I can think of is the Beacon.

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Kyoka Jiro- Another hard one, possibly handled better as a NPC or support. Perhaps the Janus?

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Minoru Mineta- I hate him. The Delinquent? I’m not going to spend more time on this creep.

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Denki Kaminari- The Nova, because his powers are elemental in nature and have a very bad drawback.

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Fumikage Tokoyami- I want to go with the Doomed, but I’m not sure what his ‘Doom’ would be. Overall, the Doomed is the gloomiest of the playbooks, and he seems like the gloomiest person! But, somehow in a cool way.

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Mashirao Ojiro- The Beacon might be a good fit here. His quirk is a tail, but it’s not a power in and of itself, so the Beacon could still work.

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Hanta Sero- Yikes, this one is hard. His tape is definitely a power, but could be seen as a type of equipment, so the Beacon might apply. Additionally, the Janus has some similar powers.

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Koji Koda- We don’t know much about Koda, so it’s hard to pick a playbook for him.

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Rikido Sato- The Bull would fit his style, especially with the declining brain function.

 

Masks Beacon Playbook- Character Drives

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Masks is a great game, and one of the playbooks, the Beacon, has one of the best design features for a character that I have ever seen.

For those that don’t know, the Beacon is the normal person on the team. They don’t have superpowers. They might have gadgets and skills, but they’re just a normal person trying to do good in a team of super powered friends.

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The Beacon has a feature called Drives. The Beacon has a list of tasks or goals to accomplish. Because Masks is a teenage superhero game, these include things like “get a new hero name”, “punch someone you probably shouldn’t”, and “pull off a ridiculous stunt”.

Each session, the Beacon chooses four drives to work on. If they accomplish it, they get to mark it off and get a reward. Once a drive has been marked off, it’s permanently done. If you mark off all four in a session, you pick four more.

The beauty of this feature is that drives give you things to strive for. They’re almost a kind of role playing prompt. Regardless of whatever mission or story you’re participating in, drives are the motivations for your character.

With drives, you are never caught at a time where you don’t know what to do. If there is nothing else happening in the game, you can push to complete one of your drives.

The limit of four drives at a time is a great decision. It gives focus to your drives and goals. Having a list of 20 drives that you could accomplish would be overwhelming and feel chaotic. Instead, the act of picking four means that you are aware of what you want to do, and can do it with a focused approach.

The last beauty of drives is specific to Masks. In the game, if you are able to complete all of the drives, you have a choice to make. You either pick a new playbook and use that going forward, retire from the superhero life, or become a paragon of the city.

This highlights what Drives are to a Beacon. They’re a measure of accomplishment. A Beacon is defined by having drives that they want to achieve. Once they’re all done, they have nothing else they need to do in the game. If they want to keep playing with their team, they have to pick a new playbook, because they’re no longer driven by their drives; they’re a different type of person. If they retire, it’s because they’ve accomplished everything they want to from the superhero lifestyle. If they want to keep going down the same path, then they become a paragon of the city, an NPC.

Drives are an amazing feature that should be included in as many games as possible. I love this mechanic, and will be looking for ways to implement it into other systems.

 What is Masks? An awesome game.

What is Masks? An awesome game.

Have you played a Masks game? If so, what do you think about the Beacon’s drives? Let me know!