Monthly Archives: February 2013

I saw an interesting question on a tabletop rpg forum I look at occasionally.  What do you do, as the DM, when the game slows down and your players are milling about without anything to do? How do you avoid saying, “What do you want to do now?”

Personally, I never have to say this to my players since I always give them more than enough to do.  In fact, I now have all 6 of my players regularly showing to the bi-weekly tabletop rpg I’m running, so I’m getting into the problem of how I keep them from all trying to talk to me at once! I can’t exactly say this is a bad problem to have!!

But, for new DMs, what can you do to keep your tabletop rpg moving?

Character Background Stories for Tabletop RPGs

In the last 7 years of DMing (and I’ve been a DM well over 10), I haven’t had to come up with any sort of fodder to throw at my players myself.  Instead, I make them provide it for me via their character background stories!

I require at least a half a page of basic info such as who their characters are and what their major goal is.  My other half found googled character motivation charts and when he isn’t feeling particularly creative, he just hands in one of those to me.  Good enough! I at least get the major motivations, which is fine!

However, I have a little carrot that I dangle out in front of my players.  I offer 1xp per page of character background they write (normal font, no double spacing, 12 point).  And because I give bonuses for well written stories, I get mini novels these days when there’s something my players really want to try mechanic wise, but don’t have enough points for! This provides me with countless hours of what my other half calls my evil DM chuckle.

Create a World that is Always on the Go

Just because the PCs decide to go to the inn for a little R&R, it doesn’t mean that the evil protagonist, lowly peasants, or other adventurers and heroes aren’t out there doing things.  Governments are still going to rule over their people, kings and queens will make proclamations and declare war, and gods will continue to move in mysterious ways.

My players found out the hard way in the last pre-Vampire Darkages game I ran, that just because they couldn’t make a decision, it didn’t mean other people couldn’t.  This came back and bit them in the butt more often than not.

Plot Hooks for the Win

This ties directly into creating a world that’s always on the go.  Throw out those plot hooks.

I’d say about 1:5 plot hooks I throw to my players I’ve actually planned for.  A lot of the time they start slowing down and stalling and some cultist, lone traveler, mage, and so on enters stage right and strikes up a conversation.  In my Vampire games, my fae always have violet eyes.  If I really want to stir the pot? I give my NPC violet eyes and watch the players squirm.  Or sometimes I’ll just throw a chicken farmer into the plot and watch my players try to figure him out.  If he’s in the game, he has to be important, right?

At any given time I’d say that there’s about 15-20 individual and group plot hooks floating around.  My players are learning how to identify the urgent ones that won’t wait for the to make a decision, the ones that they can ignore and those they can put on ice until they get some time to pursue them.  Regardless of what they do with the plot hook, they know that the world isn’t waiting on them to make a decision.

NPCs to Interact with the Characters

Notice how everything I’ve mention is kind of interconnected?

Since I’m running Vampire, I have a lot of NPCs that I’ve already populated the world with.  However, at this point, my players have met less than a quarter.  Some aren’t right for where they are in the campaign, some I created for specific plot hooks that haven’t been thrown into the mix yet or the characters haven’t gotten to.  Most of them are the “hey, this would be cool” ideas that I come up with at 10 at night and jot down and flush out.

Regardless of why they’re there, I have several NPCs I can use to get my players moving.  Since this is a Tremere Dark Ages game, Tremere is often the big motivator.  Nobody wants to piss him off and if they get summoned to his chambers, they know they’re in deep water without a breathing device.  A few of the players have contacts and allies I can use to get them going as well.  Vampire is a game that really helps the DM in this regards!

Be Descriptive with your Narritives

Something I’ve noticed from Con games, usually when a DM has to ask “what are you going to do”, they weren’t descriptive enough in the scene or it wasn’t put together well.  I generally run Paranoia at cons since it’s a really good system for one shot games.  But, I have it easy.  All I have to do is kill clones until the group decides to do something interesting.  This doesn’t exactly work too well in normal campaigns.

However, when I describe a scene in detail, make sure to include obvious things for the players to do, I never have to ask them what they want to do.  I may have to go to a round of players declaring what they want to do because they suddenly want to do 6 different things all at the same time, but I never have to ask them what they want to do.

 

LoTLSeptember 2011 I stumbled upon a video on YouTube that was labeled as the band Pain.  In actuality, the song Sex on Legs wasn’t from Pain but from a German band called Lord of the Lost.  Since the video looked like something straight out of Vampire the Masquerade (and the music wasn’t bad either), I was hooked.

I never really looked into who the band was, I just liked their music.  I also really wanted to see them live, but at the time I discovered them they weren’t coming anywhere close to the Netherlands much less any venues I regularly go to just over the boarder in Germany.  So October 2012 they were playing a venue in Enschede.  I found someone who wanted to go with me, bought tickets, and waited.  Then tragedy struck…the singer of the band started having throat problems so wouldn’t be making the stops in Enschede or Rotterdam.  Damn!

It was at this point that I started looking into Lord of the Lost a bit more and I found out that I’ve probably seen the singer live before, but as a guitarist for a band I love to hate.  Big Boy.

I won’t go into my loathing of Big Boy, but lets just say that they were an opening act for the first Cruxshadows show I saw in Europe back in 2007 at the Matrix in Bochum, Germany.

You’ll never guess where I saw Lord of the Lost last night.  Yup.  At the Matrix, in Bochum, Germany.

Christ HarmsI’m not 100% certain Chris Harms was actually part of Big Boy back in 2007, but if he was, irony was at it’s fullest since everything came full circle last night and I learned a few things.  First, I think I might have to apologize to Big Boy for hating them so much.  The sound at the Matrix was horrible in 2007 and it was still pretty bad in 2013.  So it may not have been Big Boy that was bad…

Class and UnzuchtThe second thing I learned, never go to the Matrix to see a band you haven’t seen before.  The sound quality is horrible!! If you’re in the center of the room, I think the sound is a little better (from what I remember back in 2007 since I was center room for CSX).  However, it was packed last night and the closest I got to the stage was about 6 rows back and to the right so I was just under the right hand speaker.  For several songs it took me at least 1 verse to realize what song it was since it was just coming out as noise.

The third thing I learned is you will come out of the Matrix smelling like an ashtray.  Apparently smoking is still allowed in this venue (haven’t seen smoking in the building at the last few concerts in Germany) and it sucked.  Every time I inhaled to scream or sing, I was sucking in someone else’s disgusting smoke.  I appreciate the fact that the venues I go to the most don’t allow this and because of this (and the bad sound) I probably won’t be going to the Matrix again.  It’s just not worth the price of the ticket or the drive.

However, overall, it was a good night.  Even though the person who was supposed to go with me ditched me at the last minute, even though my other half who wasn’t planning on attending wasn’t able to get off work any earlier so we would arrive on time, even through a white wall of snow that made me slow down to 50 on the autohahn, even though we arrived late and I missed the first few songs of Unzucht who was co-headlining with Lord of the Lost, even though it was so packed I would hit someone or get hit when hands went in the air, and even through the crappy sound, I finally got to see Chris Harms and Lord of the Lost live.

Now I’ve got to wait patiently for them to play at a decent venue so I can actually make out the words of the songs! Maybe I should buy tickets to Mera Luna…

 

Where ever there’s a mass shooting or grievous violence, the end fault always seems to land on the shoulders of “violent” video games.

Not graphic violence on TV.

Not graphic violence depicted on the news, or in the newspaper and other news media.

Not graphic violence depicted in songs…we can still beat them bitches and hoes to our hearts content.

And not in role-playing games, history books, or other media avenues.

And absolutely NOT in the lack of parenting.

Video games are ALWAYS found at fault.  So, in the wake of the tragic Sandy Hook incident, a Connecticut state representative has proposed a 10% violence tax on all video games that are rated mature.  So what does this mean?

Well, of course those that enjoy the actual real “violent” video games like Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and Gears of War will have to pay the tax.  And more than likely games like American McGees Alice, Diablo, and even Everquest/World of Warcraft will have to pay.  However, the games don’t have to be simply “violent” to fall prey to this tax.  The Sims3, Fable, Civilization, Thief, or even Overlord will have to pay the tax.

Personally, I think this is rather idiotic since this tax isn’t going to fix anything.  It’s not going to bring the victims of violence back and I know for certain it won’t go to actually helping mentally ill folks.  No, it will just become one of those taxes where the revenue goes off somewhere we can’t see and ends up in the pockets of politicians.

Then again, I’d be willing to pay this tax as long as the bitches and hoes get a 10% tax too and THAT money goes to women’s abuse shelters.  Of course, that’s probably racist.  Gotta protect them bitches and hoes being smacked around after all!