Poetry Slamming


A few weeks ago I headed over to the KW Poetry Slam. It’s been a while since I was there, and I didn’t slam, but I’m committed to it next time.  I’ve got a D&D slam poem in me, I think. But watching poets describe spaces, emotions, and even works of literature, I learned some things. Things I wanted to do in my game, ways of speaking and moving that would have more of an impact on my players and make my descriptions and characters more vibrant. I’m not going to run a game as a slam poem any time soon, but here are three things I learned about GMing from slam poetry.  Read more

Hero Wrapup


That’s right, the last post on heroes for the time being. Next week we’ll move on to something else, maybe have a bit of fun with it. So far, I’ve discussed what a hero is, how heroes can be guided by values, and what some of those values are, as well as different types of heroes and how they fit in. Today I just want to close with some final thoughts on heroic characters.  Read more


Han Solo

Heroes, despite being a common theme in most rpgs, are actually pretty hard to find. When you do find them, they tend to get a lot of grief. Paladins are a good example of this, a class hardwired to be a hero, and yet probably the worst at it. “The heroes” is a term that’s basically synonymous with “The PCs”, but how many PCs are actually heroic? Over the next month, I’m going to spend some time on this topic, but first I need to establish what it means to be a hero.  Read more

Story Arcs


Party Time

Wayne’s World, etc. Last week I talked about getting players to tell the story of how they got together, and I said to ask questions and work to get their story to fit with the setting. Basically, to play the role of the producer, rather than the director. There were a few tweets on what you actually do for that, so I’m going to do a short series on it. It’s easy to say, but harder to do, so I’ll get to some of the tools. This week is about helping them create a story arc. You’re the GM. You make these kinds of things up all the time, and often on the fly when they wander off the reservation, which is pretty much always if your players are like mine. They have a lot less experience, but here’s how you can help them without making the decisions for them.  Read more

Getting the Party Started

This is one of those things I’ve meant to write about for a long time, but I always set it aside for other topics. But for a GM, it’s probably one of the most challenging things to do. How does the party get together? What forges the PCs into a team of people who are willing to risk their lives for each other? They can all meet in a bar, but it doesn’t address the underlying issue. Players will point out inconsistencies, and have a hard time justifying why their character is with the group. How do you do it without railroading? How do you get a group of misfits to fit together, to trust each other?

I will tell you the secret. The thing that will make your life a million times easier, and keep the party together while avoiding those trust issues that heavily-armed adventurers tend to have.   Read more

Finding Feathers

Frostmourne, Runeblade of the Lich King

The other day my charge and I were at the park, and he found a feather. Fascinated with its softness and delicacy, he took it home and played with it for hours. Despite having lots of toys and movies available, the feather was his treasure. He asked me all kinds of questions about it. Why was it structured the way it was? How did it help birds fly? What kind of bird was it from? Some I had answers for, and some I didn’t. But it got me thinking about treasure. Treasure’s a component of most rpgs, but with leveling  and the quest for ever better gear, it can be hard to make treasure meaningful. There’s a point where it loses its wonder and becomes a pile of shiny numbers with which to destroy one’s enemies. Today I want to look at some ways to recapture that wonder.  Read more

Broad Strokes

The wonderful thing about Tiggers is that they're CR 5 w/10 hit dice.

I spent the week with a friend’s kids, and learned a lot of really interesting things, one of them which I’ll share today. We’ve watched a lot of movies. Kung Fu Panda, Winnie the Pooh, Happy Feet, all kinds of kids movies, and there’s something that I’ve noticed. They always focus on the broad strokes. Everything’s over the top, the villains are darker in some ways, and the heroes shine brighter. The stories involve sweeping and constant themes, and the characters all have traits that plainly set them apart from each other. They’re archetypal in a way that’s very useful for GMing, so today you’ll learn how to focus on the broad strokes, thanks to kids’ movies.  Read more

Creative Differences

If the feeling isn't there, this is what you get.

Two weeks ago I posted a character background I’d written for a new D&D game I’m in (first session is today, there may be tweets later), and the GM asked me a question i’d never considered before. He wanted to use one of the characters I’d made up for a plot hook, and asked me how much I would allow him to expand on her in use. It took me a bit to answer him, and it’s worth talking about. As a GM, encouraging players to invent NPCs connected to their character is a great way to make them part of the setting, and adds some real depth. But when those NPCs come up in game, how far is the GM permitted to go? In what sense do those characters belong to the player, and how can you interpret them faithfully? Today I’ll talk about some of the challenges associated with that, and the best strategy I’ve come up with to do it well.  Read more

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