One of the things I’ve started doing is having players submit character reflections for a modest experience reward. It’s completely optional, and anyone can do it. They have to be a few paragraphs long, and can take any form the player likes, but they have to be submitted by the following game. I’ve posted a few here, and with their permission I’ll be posting some more. Some of the forms they’ve taken include personal journals, letters, and histories from bards in the future, all things that have a physical presence in the setting, and that encourage interaction with other characters. The funny thing is, I’d never thought about this. I’d figured on internal monologues, or external accounts of what the character was thinking. But they took it and ran with it, like in today’s letter, from a sorceress to a young man on a pirate ship she served on for a time.  Read more

Lateral Rewards

At My Table

Games like D&D often recommend awarding what I call primary rewards for excellence, things like experience points, or extra treasure. Roleplaying xp is a good example of this, and it serves the function of motivating players as I discussed last month. But rewarding people in these ways can lead to some pretty disheartening gaps, so at my table, we use lateral rewards.  Read more

Alien Nation

Wiki Update: Meta-Setting

I’d never had anyone consider the Xeph before, in part because they look like little green men, but also because psionics, the D&D system for psychic powers, hadn’t played a large role in my game. Still when a player did, I didn’t say no. It was a legitimate choice, and a good one for their character, but they needed a home, and an explanation. That led not just to the creation of the Xeph homeland, but of the population of the entirety of sub-Saharan Africa with a panoply of nations and cultures bound together in Nafaanra, the “Gathering of Great Peoples”.

In other news, Thursday posts are going to become farther apart. I need to lighten my writing load to focus on my job hunt, now that I’ve finished my degree. Sadly, my dream of being a professional GM hasn’t been realized…Yet. In the meantime though, the Xeph! 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


Wiki Update: Characters

In addition to the adventure log, every player in my D&D games has the opportunity to submit a character reflection, a few paragraphs on their character’s thoughts about the session. It can be in a journal, an inner monologue, or however they like. The idea is to get people thinking in more depth about their characters and the game, and to reward them for doing so. Here are a few of the character reflections that have been submitted so far.  Read more



Hey, I finished my thesis last night! Which means I am sleeping most of today. Probably. But I wasn’t going to leave you with nothing. Here’s a set of 20 questions that I answered for an Essentials game I’ll be playing in soon. I’m going to start going over each of the 20 questions in the next few months, looking at what they’re for and how you can use them to tell a story about your character. Check out the wiki for the Essentials game too, Vale Tales. Anyway, on to my 20 questions! Read more

Slaves of Malkara

Wiki Update: Adventure Log

I’ve got a special treat today. Today’s post was written by Brad, one of the players in a new D&D game I’ve started up. You can catch our next installment on Youtube or Google Hangouts on Sunday, September 2nd at 2pm Eastern, and there’ll be excerpts from it going up in a few weeks. He’s never played D&D before, but came through our lightning round like a trooper, and wrote a hell of an adventure log for the first game. I hope you enjoy the first installment of the new Legends of the Madjan. Read more

The Icewalkers

Wiki Update: Meta-Setting

I’ve written about a lot of nations and civilizations, but there are smaller things too. I find writing about tribes to be tricky, because there’s a tendency to make them sound primitive. They have different technologies and ways of life, but primitiveness implies a kind of value judgement about how they can interact with other people, one that anthropologists avoid in real life, and that I try to avoid in D&D. The People live in the icy north of what we know as Norway and Finland (remind me to talk about the map next week), and constantly battle the frost giants who live there. In the past century their way of life has been changed by an encounter with a dwarven colony, the fortress of Mattock, and the two cultures have banded together to make a better living in Stahlrim (sometimes I find words that I like and I played a lot of Elder Scrolls). Read more

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