Saturday, December 31, 2011

Who’s the Best GM?

For those of you with community activist groups seeking to abolish role-playing games, don’t link to this post! This is not a very favorable look at role-playing games and their game masters, because it exposes the one kind of person who makes the best GM. That kind of person is a liar.
Successful liars and GMs share many of the same character traits. After all, fantasy is fantasy, whether you are creating a world of elves, trolls and magic or coming up with a story about where you just spent the last four hours. I am not suggesting that every marginal GM go out and start lying for practice, but maybe by watching a few less than honest people, you might pick up a few pointers. Let's do just that:
A good liar/GM has to be able to tell a story. Facial gestures (especially eyes) are extremely important. Tone fluctuations can also serve to make the story more entertaining and thus keep the listener from concentrating too much on the subject matter. Actors tell lousy stories, because they include too much detail. Liars, know just the right amount of detail to include to make the story pass inspection without raising suspicions. It is the level of detail and generalization that makes a great story.
Lying is an important part of GMing. How often has an inexperienced GM rolled to see if a thief can sneak-up on a party, only to alert them that something was amiss? Good liar/GMs roll often behind their screens and convince the party to be on their toes at all times. GMs also need to lie to the players to prevent their characters from knowing too much. Even if it is as simple as not telling them when they did not detect a secret door, poker-faced GMing is vital.

End of the Year

December has not been a consistent month for us on this blog and we’re sorry. With vacations, holidays and general sugar comas, things have been a bit spotty. New Year’s Resolution: Get better about being consistent!
So the news of the day is The City of Rhum! It is available at RPG Now, now! Just click the link. e23 is likely on vacation, but we’ll post that link as soon as it is live.
This is the base for the other Rhum supplements. It is long on culture and generalities and short on details, prices and stats. We’re only charging $2.49 because some of the information in the book has been seen in the other supplements. Yes, we know some is a repeat - That’s why we cut the price on it! We’re hoping you will understand that and not feel cheated in any way.
This is also a reminder that if anyone buys all three of the Rhum supplements (Welcome to Rhum, Warrior Guilds of Rhum and Lost in Rhum), we will happily send you a combined price list from all three. The benefit here is that you can drop it into your spreadsheet program and search it or sort it, unlike our pdfs. I’d call it free, but you paid for the three books, so it’s not really all that free.
Early in 2012 - expect Royalty. Royalty is A Baker’s Dozen Royals, 100 Nobles, and 100 Castle Staff. Everyone you should need if your players go wandering into a castle or other noble event. We set them up as though there were two political structures - The one we use in Fletnern (The Council of Barons) and a more generic feudal one. Look, the hierarchy doesn’t matter. What you really want is a couple hundred NPCs that fit in a castle. Think of it as a wandering monster guide for the palace. Sure you could try and make up every noble cousin, uncle, and half mother in law as well as all their retainers, or you can take the easy way out and get Royalty!

The City of Rhum is now available on e23. Click this link to go there.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Council or Commission?

We’re wrapping up Royalty and I’ve been thinking more about the Council of Barons. Why did I do that again? What was the point? I was trying to remember if I set it up like the NY mob’s Commission. After all, they replaced the boss of bosses with a council. Effectively a king was replaced. Not only that, but the other bosses have some say in who succeeds the current family heads. Oh and there is the thing about each baron having an heir (an underboss) and a vice roy (the consigliere). Sounds like it might be a direct lead in, huh?
Actually, I remembered where I came up with the idea. It was the NFL. The NFL owners set up the rules, but each is his own owner/king in his own city. But they cannot just sell their teams. They need to get the others to agree. That was the basis for the Council. I know – weird.
I think it comes down to the Iron Law of Oligarchy. (See, a little bit of research can yield some great results in game mastering.) Any way, the Iron Law says that (in my words) all organizations, no matter how democratic they may seem will eventual devolve into oligarchies – that is rule by an elite group of people. Take this as an example – Look at the Congress of the USA. Are there really two parties in Washington each representing their constituents or is there one party, the party of incumbents? Do unions represent their members’ interests or are they out there simply to increase their membership in order to benefit the small number of union officials? No matter what the original intent, in the end it is a small group of people who wind up wielding the power.
Who’s running your kingdoms? Not just the king himself, but the people who run the king. Are the nobles controlling who sees the king? Are the merchants in control of the king’s wealth? Are the generals controlling the king’s safety? Who picks the next king? I know it sounds like the king’s oldest son will, right? Not necessarily. Think about the whole Henry the 8th thing. His successor was a mess, but after him, it was even crazier. The only point is that even in an established line of succession is only as good the power brokers who allow it to run or not run. Besides, the political games can be almost as much fun as the other violent games!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friendly Competition

I’ve been thinking of a way to pit members of a party against each other without requiring them to duel to the death (usually bad for party harmony that death thing). It’s actually pretty easy. They are likely all members of their appropriate guilds - Soldiers Guild, Mages’ Guild, Thieves’ Guild, or whatever. All you have to do is find something they all want. Not something really important, something worth bragging rights. The queen lost her crown on a hunting trip. A thief stole the battalion’s colors. A rat ate the princess’ ring and ran off into the market. Something like that.
Well, the party really doesn’t care about all these bragging rights, but their guilds do. Instead of partnering up with their buddies, their party members, they join up with their guild mates to return the crown or colors or ring. More than likely they are running through the city, so even if they wanted to go around killing each other, it will really be frowned on. The whole point is to get them to use their non-killing skills to be the first to accomplish the task or retrieve the object. It’s all about the competition. Who will win? Who will come out on top? Which guild will prove itself the best, or at least the coolest?
They’re tough to run. You need to keep your players away from each other so one team’s clue doesn’t tip off the others, but you’re up to that. You have to make it difficult for each kind of team - combat, magic and stealth. But when it’s all over, they’re going to love you for it!