Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Keeping Track

So, an important tradition at the start of each game session for us usually involves the “In the previous episode of our story” bit where someone reminds everyone what happened the week before. It’s a great way to get everyone focused on the game and away from the snacks or the startup banter and remind everyone where the story is. Also, if anyone missed the previous session, they can catch themselves up.

But, we all know that the game isn’t always a weekly affair, and sometimes, with lots of conflicting events, it can sometimes be a month before the group reunites. Memories get hazy and details go foggy.

In the past, I would try to keep notes, but I just couldn’t keep up with it. I tried tempting my players with extra story points if they kept a log, but nobody ever took me up on it.

Well, part of the problem was that I never really had a cool system to do it, so I was never motivated to track elements of the story. I’ve seen various cool looking leatherbound emblazoned “adventure journals” for sale, but I never really found one that looked all that great.

Then, one day I was wandering through a Hobby Lobby and I saw the Happy Planners there. These were crafty and flowery and cutesy day planners being marketed to women and crafters. They had a series of loose rings as binders, and the pages and covers had these cool punched holes that held the pages in place, but also allowed for easy removal and replacement. 

That was the key that caught my eye. Removal and Replacement. That meant that the organization of the pages was flexible. Pages could shift around in the book based on temporary need, allowing accessibility without having to do a lot of searching in the moment. Very useful. 

A bit of research and I discovered that there are many brands and systems of planners and notebooks using the “Disc Bound” idea. I dove in.

In the process, I discovered that it was easy to get a hole punch made to create the special perforations necessary. Then, you could use any word processor to create your own forms and pages.

So, immediately I started creating them for The Hero’s Tale (It turns out that an 8.5x11 sheet cuts in half perfectly for an 8-ring binder). Right away, I discovered that the needs of a Narrator (Game Master) were different from the needs of the player, so I created separate forms.

The main ones that I use for Narration are the Session Notes/Planner pages and the NPC tracker pages. The session notes allows me to plan a basic overview of the likely scenes in the session, track the characters and their karmic actions as well as note the story points during the game, and then take notes on the actual story that they play. Finally, and the bottom of the flip side, I can jot down some notes for the next session. One sheet contains the whole session. 

Once I’ve got the basic plan, I create an NPC sheet for each of the primary NPCs they’ll encounter, and keep one or two blanks handy in case they run into someone I have to create on the fly. I can gather all of the recurring NPCs from deeper in the binder and move the sheets to the spot where I can access them easily. Now my NPCs are becoming real people, and have more in-depth roles, like a support or a nemesis. 

The players use the NPC sheets as well, but their session record sheets don’t require planning sections, so I’ve made those ones a little simpler. The players have their primary character sheets as well, of course.

I’m working on other page ideas, like locations and items. I also print them in a medium gray instead of dark black so that the user can write over things however they want, and they don’t have to use the “form”. 

Here are some pictures of my system in action.

I have all of my games in one binder, whether I’m the Narrator or the player. I can move them around depending on which campaigns are the most active and what world each one is in. I can pull forward the notes that are needed, and “archive” what’s not to the back of the binder.

It has had a HUGE impact on my storytelling, both as a Narrator and as a player. I no longer forget names, and personalities and locations are much more consistent and memorable. It’s becoming much more REAL. I’ll never go back!

Monday, October 24, 2022

Monday Monster - The Phased Serpent


From the forthcoming tome: The Collector's Compendium of Creatures!

Name: Phased Serpent

Description: This is a large serpent, around 30 feet long. It is black in color, with some small eyes. It has a strong sense of dimensional magic, and so lives most of its life out of phase with the Great Reality. This means that it can move through physical matter as if it weren’t there, it can’t be attacked (except with magic or magical weapons) or attack until it phases into reality.

They generally are found near the shores of Ghendal, though it can be found on other worlds on occasion.  It is possible its origins are from another world, and that some made it to Ghendal as an invasive species a very long time ago. It would be from whatever location the Qhuempi are originally from.

Intelligence: Higher animal

Motivation: Survival, carnivorous

Hearts: 4

Difficulty to Hit: Normal (13+)

Average Attributes: 

Str:  +2   Dex:    0   Frt:   0    Awr:    +2     Soc:    0

Actions: 2 primary, 1 secondary

Attacks\Combat Skills: Bite +2, Tail whip +1, each can do injuries or 1 heart of damage.

Armor/Protections: Ability to phase

Powers: Dimensional Magic +2

WP: 8

Special Rules:  It travels through the ground and has a natural ability to phase itself in temporarily. It uses its dimensional magic to sense life when traveling phased through the ground.  It uses this to attack and eat its prey. It attacks primarily with its bite, though it may attack by whipping its tail towards its enemies, should it deem to protect its head. It may phase or unphase itself as a defense against attacks. 

Possibility of treasure: Low

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

A Quick Formula for an Adventure!

 How to Be a Great Narrator (Game Master) #3

Sometimes you plan for weeks and weeks to make your campaign ready. You spend days in worldbuilding, days in the maps, hour after hour making the core NPCs, and even more hours working out the storylines.

Other times, you’re just sitting around with some buddies and you want to throw down some dice. While they’re whipping together some quick characters, can you improvise an adventure? Can you make something interesting and exciting?

Here’s a fast formula you can use to put out an exciting and compelling adventure! It’s “SNGC” - you could possibly pronounce that like, “SNUG-kkh” if you wanted to, but I’m not sure why you would...


1 - Setting

Where is this adventure going to happen? This is more than just “What world?” or “What city?” the players will be wandering through. Is there a basement or catacombs under an inn or a chapel? Will they be creeping through a dark and spooky forest? This is the first decision.

2 - Characters

Who will be involved? In this case, I’m speaking much more about the NPCs, rather than the players. Who will they encounter, and what will they be like. Jot down a few names (maybe use an online name generator or an old IKEA catalog) and a few notes of the role of the character and their personality. The less of this you have to improvise, the more fleshed-out the story will be.

3 - Goals

Why are we here? And why should we care? 

These are the deep existential questions your party will be asking you. Well, they might not ask these questions out loud, but believe me, they are thinking about these issues. Exploring the sandbox or shopping for new armor and potions only carries you so far before you start to wonder what the point of it all is. Is there some magical McGuffin they can seek, or some monster terrorizing a village? Is there a tourney to be won, or someone to be rescued? The sooner a goal, a task, is established, the sooner the game will get underway.

4 - Conflict

This is critical. Without conflict, you have no story. Sandbox play can be fun, but if the characters don’t have something driving them to act, they will either shut down in boredom, or will look to create some conflict with the characters in the setting. It’s NOT likely that this will end well. Trust me.

There are two kinds of conflict here: One is the conflict the party will face when they try to achieve the goal. This could be pretty obvious: The monster they’re trying to kill might not WANT to be killed, or the powerful evil wizard whose McGuffing they’re wanting to steal might not WANT to end his comfortable reign of blood and horror.

It’s also a lot of fun to establish some external conflicts between the NPCs. Maybe some of the villagers don’t trust each other, and maybe they want to get back at an old rival in the tavern. These sorts of conflicts might not drive the story quite as much, but they can sure flavor it and make it more tricky.

Remember to hint at the conflicts and the goals early on. This is often called the “Hook” or the “Teaser”. This is what triggers the adventurers into action mode and away from drink-themselves-into-oblivion-on-the-inn’s-barstool mode.

So, that’s the SNGC formula for a quickie adventure. Even if you can’t decide how to pronounce it (“SNOG-ick”? “SING-K”?), you’ll find that it will help you establish an active and energetic adventure that your players will lunge into. It can also be used in preparing the individual sessions of a long-running campaign as well.

Happy Gaming, and roll 20s!

Monday, October 17, 2022

Monday Monster

 As part of our work on the new THT manual: The Creatures Compendium, We'll be sharing monster teasers here every other monday! We hope you enjoy throwing them at your players and parties! If you do, come back and comment how the encounter went!

Name: Vast Squid

Description: The Vast Squid is a huge cephalopod-like creature that drifts and slides through the ethers of the Vast. It eats large masses of matter that float in that extradimensional space. This is mostly rock and stone, but they have been known to attack and consume Vast ships and other hominid-crafted items that travel the Vast. Its excrement is a gravel-like substance that, when it drifts into a Vast cloud, can seed the formation of magical crystals, from which powerful oculi can be made. This is, of course, only one way to obtain oculi, and is certainly the most dangerous method.

Vast Squid are extremely rare. <I haven’t even seen one, and I live in the Vast. I only have records of them from the Seeker’s Library. Though I can’t tell when it was written. Was it written in the past or the future? I may never find out. Regardless, Vast Squids are solitary creatures, that, according to the record are very slow.> 

Vast Squid also feed on magical energy, flying or swimming through colored clouds and entropy storms, eagerly drawing in energy as multi-colored lighting blasts from the clouds.

Intelligence: Completely unknown. No one on record has ever communicated with one.

Motivation: Also unknown. (Note to Narrator: Have fun with this!) They are mostly docile, but will attack if hungry or attacked first. If one is pulled through a portal into the Great Reality, it will be very disoriented and upset and may attack fiercely until it is able to return to the Vast.

Hearts: 4-6

Difficulty to Hit: Hard (17+) because of the thick, rubbery skin. In The Great Reality, it may be more difficult because of the distortion mentioned below.

Average Attributes: 

Str:  +5   Dex:   -3   Frt:   +4    Awr:    ?    Soc:    -4

Actions: X primary, X secondary

Attacks\Combat Skills: +3 Strength attack. A Vast Squid has 10 tentacles, but is not fast enough to attack with all 10 in one round. It will likely only attack with 2-3 tentacles per phase. If a Vast Squid attack rolls higher than Difficult DF, they have likely wrapped a tentacle around the victim and will squeeze the life out of it. A Hard Strength or Dexterity roll (17+) will be required to break free. 


Powers (including WP): Dimensional Magic +4

Special Rules: The magic of the Vast Clouds allow the Squid to regenerate hearts of damage and severed tentacles. This won’t happen immediately, but gradually. A Vast Squid in The Great Reality exudes dimensional energy, distorting reality around it. Things can change and warp very quickly, sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently. 

Possibility of treasure: The Vast Squid has nothing of value to hominids, other than the gems that are seeded in the clouds.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

A Great Review!

 A while ago, we found this great person out in the Twitterverse named @ttrpgkids. She's all about helping families play role-playing games.

Well, we're all about that as well, so Jacob reached out and they reviewed Roll Dice, Build Character. Then, he set up an actual gaming session online. We all jumped onto facebook chat and played one day, with Brendon as the Narrator, and we all had a great time.

So, today, she posted a review of the game on her blog site, and WOW! What a review. I was so thrilled to see her mention some of the aspects and mechanics of the game that we had worked so hard to perfect during development. It was so encouraging!

Anyway, go read it, and enjoy it!