Destiny 2: Scorn

This week our Destiny 2: 5e update includes the Scorn! Upon reading about them, they’re basically space zombies. They’re still mostly sentient, but apparently can be brought back to life.

Enjoy the Scorn!

https://www.pirategonzalezgames.com/destiny-2/

Destiny 2: Cabal

I’ve been playing a lot of Destiny 2 lately. Like I tend to do, I decided to stat up some of the enemy factions in D&D 5e. First up this week is the Red Legion Cabal!

https://www.pirategonzalezgames.com/destiny-2/

13 Tips for Running D&D For Your Parents

 I think they’re having fun?

I think they’re having fun?

Last week I ran a D&D game for my parents. They’ve heard me talk about D&D for years, but this was their first time actually playing it. We had a great time with the game, and I came away with a few thoughts.

Because this was their first time playing a tabletop RPG, most of the suggestions for running a game for first-time players still apply. However, because the hope was to play with them again, I made a few other changes to improve their experience.

I had a few hours to play with my parents, which is part of the reason I went with some of these decisions. If you have a shorter time-frame, you might want to change some of these so that you can get into the actual game faster.

Here are 13 tips for running a D&D (or any RPG) game with your parental figures! (or any first-time player really)

Side Note: D&D and tabletop RPGs were never banned in my house, and there were never any issues with them growing up. This advice is for playing D&D with parental figures who are willing and open to playing. I am not covering any suggestions for playing with parental figures that are unwilling to play or believe the game is bad or evil. That’s a whole separate topic.

1.       Don’t Explain Everything At Once

 My Strength is 10 Why don’t I add +10 to the roll instead of 0?

My Strength is 10 Why don’t I add +10 to the roll instead of 0?

D&D 5e is not the simplest RPG system to understand, and trying to explain everything can be overwhelming to a first time player.

Explain mechanics when the player does something to trigger them. If a player wants to attack a goblin, that’s a great time to explain how to handle an attack roll. If they hit, then explain how damage works.

By holding back explanations until they’re necessary, you give the player a better feeling of freedom. First time players often believe they can only do things that are on their sheet. By withholding explanations until needed, they are free to attempt things that they may not have originally tried.

This also can flow into learning about other mechanics. For example, a fighter wearing heavy armor might try to sneak. Now you can explain what disadvantage is, and why it applies to their Dexterity (Stealth) roll! Suddenly they’ve been introduced to the advantage/disadvantage system, and might remember it later.

2.       Give them only the dice they need

 Which one is the d8 again?

Which one is the d8 again?

Knowing the difference between different dice types (d4, d6, d20, etc) can be difficult when they’re all new to you. D&D uses a ton of different dice, and knowing which one to use in which circumstance becomes confusing.

Give your player just the minimum number of dice they need, don’t give them a full set. Tie the dice to the mechanic that uses it. For example, if someone uses a greataxe, give them a d12 and say this is for their weapon.

Associating dice with specific things makes it easier to know the correct dice to use. Eventually the players will begin to default to using the d20 for most things, and know which dice is associated with their weapon.

3.       Go Through Character Generation

Normally, for a one shot game, I would use pre-generated character sheets. However, my parents were coming into this blind, not knowing what the dice were or even how a RPG works. Because of this, I decided to actually walk them through the character creation process.

There are a few benefits to doing this. For starters, they can get introduced to game concepts like race, class, and ability scores slowly instead of all at once. It also gives them a sense of ownership of their characters. This is a character that THEY created, from THEIR choices. They decided aspects of the character, so they naturally feel more comfortable with the character.

4.       Roll Stats

I normally use point-buy, but for a complete beginner, rolling for stats is better.

Stats were the first dice my parents rolled in the game, and it got them used to rolling dice and adding numbers together. Rolling stats for dice is easier to add and calculate than figuring out point buy.

Consider allowing rerolls for low stats. You don’t want players to feel frustrated by failures in the game due to low stats.

Plus, your players might get exposure to the feelings that go along with high or low rolls. (My dad got an 18 for one of his stats. My mom was jealous)

5.       Don’t Explain Every Option. Stick With Names and Summary

Player characters have a lot of options for their characters in 5e. Going through the abilities and bonuses of each race, class, and background would take way too much time for beginners who likely don’t understand what any of it means anyway.

For races, give the name and show a picture, if possible. Maybe a sentence about what they are or what they do.

For classes, just give the name and explain what their general role is.

For backgrounds, just the name should suffice.

Spells are complicated, and I would recommend picking a few spells for them and letting them pick the rest based on the name. If you know the mechanics of the spell might be misleading based on the name (for example, faerie fire does not contain actual fire), explain what the spell does in general terms. Otherwise, explain how the spell works when they decide to use it.

New players are going to pick whatever sounds the coolest or resonates with them. Let them pick based on the limited information, and then explain what they get. You might get some cool combinations.

For example, my dad naturally picked a Goliath Barbarian named Herculdes (not Hercules) and my mom picked a High Elf Bard named Bardicus E.

6.       Start at 1st Level

In D&D, characters gain complexity as they gain levels. Level 1 characters are simplest to handle, so start your players there.

If you play for long enough, the new abilities they gain will build upon their existing ones. Starting at 1st level lets them gain an understanding of the basic rules for their class, and then slowly build up to more complicated features as time goes on.

7.       Their Fear is Doing the Wrong Thing

Did-I-Do-The-Right-Thing.jpg

The fear of messing up or being wrong isn’t limited to tabletop RPGs, but it definitely is a common fear among new players.

First time players sometimes worry about doing the wrong thing, or not playing right. The act of role playing a character or doing a voice makes people feel vulnerable, and therefore concerned about doing it wrong.

Know that this is likely in the mind of your players, and try to mitigate it.

The Game Master tip of “say yes” is more important to new players. Let them get away with things you wouldn’t let other people get away with. Introduce success and failing forward. Every time they are allowed to do something, their understanding of what can be done in an RPG grows.

Introduce failure gingerly. Explain options. Are they doing something dangerous? Let them know potential outcomes. Give them choices, with pros and cons in each option.

Side Note: I had a great time running the game for my parents, but they still apologized for ‘not being good at the game’. They had a great time, but still felt like they weren’t doing things correctly.

8.       Ask for their Reason to Adventure

 The world’s doomed if I don’t is a pretty good reason.

The world’s doomed if I don’t is a pretty good reason.

The most important thing to ask players is why their character is adventurer.

Being an adventurer is dangerous, and anyone could make a decent living doing almost anything else. There has to be a reason why their character has decided to take this dangerous job. Figuring that out is a very important step.

Like we mentioned in number 7, your players are probably afraid of messing up or doing something wrong. With this mentality, they are likely to avoid dangerous situations and miss all of the plot hooks you’ve set for them. Have them understand that their job requires doing dangerous (and heroic!) things and you’ll have an easier time running the game.

9.       Give Direction

 Which way is adventure?

Which way is adventure?

A group of random people meeting in a bar is generally a bad way to start a game, and it’s particularly bad with first time players.

Don’t have them look for a job. Tell them what the job they’ve already been hired to do is.

One of the big draws of tabletop RPGs is the fact that you can do ANYTHING. On the flip side, this freedom can be crippling. Without direction, new players can feel overwhelmed and flounder. This is often why new groups of players get in bar fights or thrown into jail. They didn’t have a strong sense of direction. Provide them with clear guidance, and they can begin to experiment and understand the game in a more focused style.

Side note: I set my parents on the road, and the first thing they wanted to do was grab a drink at the bar. First time players getting into trouble at a tavern is so ingrained in new players that they literally turned around to grab a drink. Obviously they got in trouble, but I was able to get them back on the road quickly.

10.   Make NPCs with Distinctive Features

 Purple tattoo stands out. Oh yea, plus the space hamster.

Purple tattoo stands out. Oh yea, plus the space hamster.

One of my problems with Storm Kings Thunder, and a lot of adventures in the Forgotten Realms, is names. They are often needlessly complicated and similar sounding.

Don’t use complicated names or naming conventions (unless the complicated nature is a major point, like a dragon being named Traxtanisthorilamida “just call me Trax.”) Names are hard to remember unless distinctive, and new players are already learning a lot of things.

Titles and positions are easier to remember. “The Green Warden”, “Captain”, “The King” are likely what your players will remember.

Give your NPCs distinctive features. This is a good tip in general for any players, but having a specific feature or tick to latch onto helps your players remember them.

Side Note: I introduced 2 NPCs to the players. One was a dwarf with white hair, white clothes, and a cane with a yellow gemstone at the top. The other wore heavy black armor. My parents never remembered their names, but could recall their appearances or key features (white/black colors) easily.

11.   Give Them Something Familiar

 Welcome to Jur- er…, Phandelver!

Welcome to Jur- er…, Phandelver!

Some typical fantasy settings can throw a lot of information at players. Town names, countries, deities, and factions are all part of a setting, and very few of them actually matter to new players.

Stick with the basics, and give yourself the freedom to build out as your players explore.

It is also helpful to give your players something familiar. Do they all like Harry Potter? Set the game at a magic school or have a magic school be part of the town. Are they fans of a TV show? Introduce NPCs that are characters from the show.

Putting familiar things in the game puts new players at ease. They already know these places/people, so they already have a level of understanding of how they work.

When we’ve been playing RPGs for long enough, we’ve built up a huge base of common, familiar knowledge. Calling something a goblin, orc, or bugbear might immediately conjure certain images, but a new player likely had no idea what a bugbear is. Describe with familiar senses or associate it with creatures they may already know.

Side Note: I’m making the game for my parents inspired by Jurassic Park. They both know the movie, and felt clever when they realized that I was describing dinosaurs. They know how dinosaurs work, so they will feel more comfortable interacting with those creatures.

12.   Hand Waive the Rules

One problem with 1st level characters is that they’re VERY vulnerable. A small group of goblins, especially with surprise, could wipe them out! That’s no fun for a first-time player.

Hand wave encounters. Use them as practice for subtracting hit points and rolling damage. Let your players feel like competent heroes, instead of squishy commoners.

I handled goblins as having 5 hit points, +2 to hit, and doing 1d4 damage. I likely wouldn’t be able to seriously hurt anyone, and the goblins would go down in 1 hit. They learned how to handle damage, hit points, and ACs without fearing character death.

13.   Be Energetic and Excited

When running a game for first time players, they are getting a lot of their cues from you. If you are energetic and excited, they will feel that way as well. If they see you doing voices and moving around, they will feel more comfortable doing so themselves.

Lead by example. Embody the style of play you want them to use, and they will hopefully begin to emulate it.

Side Note. My dad quickly started getting into a speech pattern for his barbarian, speaking in simpler sentences and lowering his voice. It was great to see him experiment!

 

 

These are 13 tips on how to run D&D for your parental figures, or any first-time player! Have you run a game for your parental figures? How did it work? Let me know!

 

 

Developing Characters: Pre-Session Q&A

mei.jpg

An important part of making a cohesive group of characters for a role playing game is to make sure that the players understand everyone else’s characters. Many Powered by the Apocalypse (PBtA) games like Masks and Dungeonworld have bonds or relationships to other characters that indicate not just their interactions with other players, but also their expectations for future ones. For games that don’t have this built into their structure, there are many ways to develop these same levels of connection.

The one method I’ll talk about today is useful not just for developing relationships, but also for introducing characters to an audience, like an Actual Play Podcast or Live Stream.

Pre-Session Q&A

qa.jpg

Before you begin the recap for each session, introduce the player and character. Once they introduce themselves, ask each player a leading question about their character. Really good questions will lead the players to reveal more information about their character. This is really helpful for finding out more about characters that hasn’t come up in the game yet. Some examples include:

-        What is your character’s greatest fear?

-        What emotion is most often associated with your character, such as guilt or optimism?

-        What did your character think about (insert a recent situation)?

-        Does your character have any friends that aren’t in the group?

-        Who does your character feel most protective about?

-        What would cause your character to retire or give up?

-        What would your character’s nightmares look like?

Asking each player the same question allows everyone to get a helpful view of everyone else’s perspectives. If everyone has a similar fear, for example, that is common ground that the Game Master (GM) can use during the game. The players also know that other characters feel that way, and can look for opportunities to bring it up during role playing.

This is just one way of developing characters and relationships, what are some methods you use?

 

Gencon 2018 Recap

gencon icon.jpg

I survived Gencon, and avoided the Con Crud!

Gencon 2018 was my first time at Gencon, and only my second gaming convention after Pax Unplugged. I was nervous going into the convention, as it was a new experience for me and overflowing with people.

I was lucky to meet up with some fellow fans of the One Shot Podcast network, and meeting these new people and finding old faces from Pax Unplugged made Gencon into a great experience for me.

One of the things I was looking forward to was playing as a player in some tabletop RPGs, instead of the GM. Some of the games include:

13th Age- I played a tiefling hellsinger (bard/barbarian) named Vivan who sung with the voice of the Diabolist. She's kind of awesome.

Blue Beard's Bride- A horror game that I never would have played by myself, but lucked into a great group of people that fostered a comfortable experience.

Blades in the Dark- Mouse, the sneaky thief and infiltrator.

Masks- M. King, the beacon who loves the stories of the Monkey King and wants to be him. He's adorable and I want to protect him forever.

Dragon Age World- A hack of Dungeon World into Thedas, playing a goth spirit-healer elf.

Fallout (Genesys): The gruff outlander traversing the mysterious land of Far Harbor.

I also attended a True Dungeon, a set of escape room-like scenarios with shuffleboard combat for fighting monsters. It was fun, but my character was turned to stone and removed from the game fairly early, which made the rest of the adventure less enjoyable as I couldn’t participate. As puzzles aren’t my forte in the first place, I would probably skip the True Dungeons in the future unless I attended with friends.

I was lucky to attend the Campaign Podcast live episode, which was both hysterical and bittersweet. It was a nice sendoff for the crew of the Mynoc, and it was packed with fans of the show. The performers were incredible, and it made for the most entertaining part of the convention.

 It's just,  like, the best you guys.

It's just,  like, the best you guys.

As a side note, the Masks RPG was one of the most popular topics among people I met that were into RPGs. I spent a ton of time mutually fawning over the system.

Overall I was very happy with Gencon, once I got a lay of the land. Personally, the experience was much better than Pax Unplugged. Gencon had pre-registration for all events, so even though there were tons of people attending, there were few lines that I had to contend with. Contrasted with Pax Unplugged, where I only made it into one RPG game, I much prefer Gencon’s approach.

I would love to go to Gencon again, and next time I hope to spend more time with the friends I made. Hopefully I'll go back soon!

Coin Zombies

 Moneeeeeeey

Moneeeeeeey

Zombies are slow. How do you make it easier for them to eat the brains of still-moving creatures? You make the prey WANT to come near the zombie!

Taken directly from 13th Age, the coin zombies prey on the greed of other creatures by compelling them to come closer.

Throw these baddies at your players for a fun variation on the zombie. I'll bet they see how much money they can get from them!

If you liked this, be sure to check out 13th Age, it's full of fun ideas like this!

coin zombies.jpg

The Chessmen

Chess is a familiar game to many people. Even if you don't know how to play, probably know there are pieces like the knight or the queen.

A group of enemies based around chess pieces make a great group of enemies. You have a group of enemies that all work together as a unit, and their visual appearance and mechanics reinforce their chess-game roles.

You could have a tinkerer or wizard called "The Grandmaster" who has created robotic servants and guardians. These Chessmen work great for a short arc, but watch out for the queen!

chessmen1.jpg
chessmen2.jpg
chessmen3.jpg

Enjoy the Chessmen!

Charity Game for Puerto Rico: Arecibo (FATE)

This Saturday I’ll be participating in a charity game for disaster relief/recover for Puerto Rico, Arecibo! My friend Melissa (@momtoast_mel) will be running the game, and has put together a charity drive for the game.

 We play kids.

We play kids.

Arecibo is a FATE core game by @evilhatofficial, centered on the Arecibo municipality of Puerto Rico. You might recognize one of its noticeable features…
 

 It almost looks like a golden eye of sorts...

It almost looks like a golden eye of sorts...

That is the Arecibo Observatory, which was the world’s largest radio telescope until 2016. And it probably features into the setting, since Arecibo seems to be heavily inspired by Stranger Things. Expect a lot of creepiness!

The cool thing about this game is that it will be live streamed, and YOU have the chance to influence the game.

That’s right, by donating $20 you can join the Secret Council: You’ll gain insider knowledge of the story, and be able to influence the direction of the story!

If you just want to support the cause, you can head over to the link below and support a great cause!

https://www.podpledge.com/project/419/Arecibo-UNIDOS-Disaster-Relief-and-Recovery/home

The game starts this Saturday at 1:00pm EST at our local game store, 7th Dimension Games. Check out the Twitch channel here, and come watch me play a fictional version of my father as interpreted by his childhood stories.

 

Inspiring NPCs

 You can become a hero!

You can become a hero!

I’m not talking about Bardic Inspiration, but about NPCs and characters that are actually inspiring.

Most characters in our games can fall into certain archetypes; the villain, the slacker, the loner, and so on. But one figure that I don’t see often is the Inspiring Figure.

When we make connections to NPCs in the games, we tend to look for things like ‘family member’, ‘rival’, or ‘need revenge’. These help us flesh out or characters, but are often set up as goals to overcome (the rival) or potential hooks to provide motivation (my brother was kidnapped!).

The character that made me think of this is All Might from My Hero Academia. In the anime, he is the #1 hero. He’s the strongest hero in the world, but that alone doesn’t make him inspiring. Instead, he has set himself up as the Symbol of Peace in the world. Always smiling, he provides hope to the world.

 "It's fine now. Why? Because I am here!"

"It's fine now. Why? Because I am here!"

Everyone knows All Might. The main characters all look up to him for different reasons, but what is most important is that we SEE him doing heroic and inspiring things. His words and actions matter, and he knows it. He is a beacon.

All Might’s presence hovers over everything in the story. That might be a bit much for a tabletop game, but the premise is still interesting. How many NPCs in games would you consider inspiring? Most everyone is there to either support the heroes, or directly oppose them.

all might 3.png

If you make an inspiring figure in your game, and want people to FELL like they are inspiring, you need to make them relatable. If your inspiring figure is a god, then they’re not connecting with people on a certain level. Part of the reason that someone is inspiring is because they enable others to think that they too can do these incredible things. Having the inspiring figure be a god or supernatural being just ends up making them separate and better than everyone else.

Adding an Inspiring Figure is easier to do during character creation or when establishing the setting, but all you need to do is ask a player “Who do you look up to”, and “Why do you look up to them”. Your answers may vary, but you’ll find that role playing a truly inspiring, genuine, and relatable person is a difficult but fulfilling challenge.

 

Remember, go plus ultra!