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Thread: GM Tips, Tricks, & General Advice

  1. #211

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    As much as I like RPG-theory and applying it, Skill Challenges aren't my strong part. I've rarely used them, and when I have they weren't very engaging either. The best I can advise is to read both 4e DMG's sections on them and see what they say. They are easily convertible to 3.X as the skill systems are relatively unchanged. The whole concept is an interesting take on how skills can have something more than a binary yes/no resolution system, as well as making an encounter that relies purely on the PC's skills instead of combat ability. There are flaws, sure, but it's a vast improvement over the basic skill system.
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  2. #212
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    While I don't have much experience with it in 4e, for Nexus (on the OURS) system we adopted some similar stuff on the GM side to use for some things so I might be able to answer some. Note that OURS was built for pbp so my only experience is with it that way.

    I used them when I was in an area where the characters had a goal that was on a time line. In particular I would tend to use multiple steps with it - though you can simplify it down for single step ones definitely. I didn't tell the Player what skills were available - instead I gave him the situation and let him decide what he would do. I had worked out a lot of the likely options for skills before hand done it up (and I still have one here I'll put in). Basically they say what they want to do - I determine if its appropriate or where it goes - which skill and the difficulty to do that.

    Here is the one I was discussing. In this situation Makye is the PC in the Runic setting (nexus was multiplanar) and he was set upon by a Dark Elf (Dark Elfs in this setting mixed druidic magic with runic magic). After a discussion the joking about Dark Elf decided to give him a chance to make it and toy with him. He would then have to convince a group that had never sen a creature of his type before to believe him.

    First thing I did was look at the situation and the pcs and npcs skills. Then I listed the ones I thought would be most used through the skill Challenge - you can see the 6 there. Then I began splitting it up below - each stage had its own difficulty and I allowed options for other things like melee where appropriate. Additionally one thing I tried to do was because this was a race type situation was make options that impacted later ones down the line and making certain options easier or harder later.

    Athletics
    Perception
    Survival
    Animal Empathy
    Magic Lore
    Melee

    Stage 1
    Escaping the Plants

    Gabor has summoned plants and trees to stop you from reaching the Knights in time. The natural world itself is attempting to block you.

    Skills:
    Athletics (Skill at getting past)
    Perception (Spot the Holes)
    Survival (feeling your way out)

    Make a Magic Lore or Animal Empathy Check to gain +2 on all checks in this Stage as you understand what’s happening better

    Melee can be used to bite through at a -2 Penalty.

    2 Checks
    DC: 15

    Stage 2
    The Race

    Time against the clock. You have to hurry or else the Knights will fall to the Dark Elves. Can you make it without them seeing you quickly enough?

    Checks
    Speed (Can you get there faster)
    Stealth or Melee (Melee Checks are for dealing with plant mooks that you haven’t avoided. Stealth allows you to avoid them and grants +2 on the next area as you have extra time. Melee grants you +2 on getting away in Stage 4 as there’s less guards)
    Animal Empathy


    Comment: Speed was an Attribute.
    1 Check
    DC: 12

    Stage 3
    Convincing.
    You finally made it through all the lines and now you have to convince the bishop to flee – now before the dark elf clan arrives!

    Checks:
    Persuasion (Convince)
    Deception (Lie your way out)
    Insight (Understand the right points to hit)

    2 Checks
    DC: 15

    Stage 4 (Or Failure)
    Getaway

    The Dark Elves have you – its time to get away before they can capture you! Its time to drop your mission and go.

    Checks:
    Athletics (Jumping/moving about)
    Stealth (Hiding)
    Deception (Lie your way out)

    2 Checks
    DC 17


    Failure at any of these stages could be interesting and not just an auto-fail which is something I find key. Getting captured by the Dark elfs who would want to examine him was the likely consequence if he failed too much. If he fails in Stage 3 all he can do is run to stage 4 as there were far too many (the Dark Elfs were coming to destroy a group of Magic-Knights basically).

    By making it all connect and keeping each step dynamic we actually had a lot of fun with this encounter in particular that I remember it well a year or so later.
    Last edited by coboney; 10-04-2013 at 10:52 PM.
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  3. #213
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    Any advice on a place to make decent maps for your PBP games?

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    If the game I'm running doesn't have a map I do google image search for a map.

  5. #215
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    I use pyromancers (http://pyromancers.com/) a lot myself.

    Pyromancers is a great tool to use to create maps and track movement + initiative. You just post a link to your map (i.e. http://pyromancers.com/media/view/ma...round_id=44380). The player who's turn it is, describes his actions in a post and moves his token in pyromancers. As soon as he clicks the 'Pass turn'-button, he gets a new url, which he should include in his post.

    You don't have to use detailed maps as my example, but some simple lines and a description within the thread will also suffice in most situations
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  6. #216
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    I've been meaning to try out the feature on Pyromancers where we can manipulate the tokens right in the post too...

    No time like the present eh

    I'll post back a link to the thread where I try it soon as it's up.

    edit: Well, Much as I'd like to have the maps show right up in the post, there are two issues...

    1: From what I'm reading it might be a security risk

    2: We'd end up with long arse threads with a bunch of separate flash vids loading which would increase the load time.

    I think just using the Pyromancers site with links is our best option.

    Ah well, it still kicks arse!

    edit edit: Blackfox just mentioned in my testing thread that Pyromancers isn't a valid option for folks that are limited to accessing the site by cell or certain tablets that lack flash capabilities. This is definitely worth noting for folks considering using the interactive version.

    However, it is still a great option for making maps and saving them to jpeg or png format to display.
    Last edited by Ao; 10-28-2013 at 03:03 AM.
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  7. #217
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    Way to keep the discussion going, all. Sorry I've been away. Work has limited my spare time to the point where I can barely keep up with my own games. However, since pacing is everything I do try to get in at least one or two good posts a day.

    Off the map topic, but what does everyone think about Pathfinder's Mythic Adventures? I didn't expect to like it, but after glancing through it a bit I'm thinking Wrath of the Righteous might be my next AP. I love the story based way of growing god-like characters.

    but maybe I'm wrong. What do you think?
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  8. #218
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    Default Big Descriptions

    Hi all, just when you thought I'd gone away forever, here I am with a new post.

    I've actually continued to be active in my own Jade Regent campaign. We're onto the second module of the series, and we've racked up over 3000 posts so far, so I am continuing to practice what I preach.

    So anyway, hello and happy to be here.

    The thing I'd like to talk about today are the big descriptions. I have a post much earlier on in this thread that deals with standard, every day descriptions. That post tells us to make careful word choices, the stay away from most adjectives and almost all adverbs and to write brief, easy to read posts.

    But what about when you want the Frost Giant lord that is the BBEG of your whole adventure to take the field? Or a dragon? Or the King of Men? For momentous events like that you want to go a little heavier on description don't you? Sure you so. You want a big, powerful description that is really going to knock your player's socks off.

    So dust off your keyboards boys and girls, we're going to get it done.

    The good news is that the bulk of my earlier advice still applies, so if you've been working on it your efforts will not be in vain.

    First off, lets get our image in our head. Let's go with the frost giant lord.

    How do we see this guy? For me personally, when I think of frost giants I think of ice covered mountains, size, strength and ferocity. If I bring out a frost giant lord I want my players to feel those things.

    So what do we have? Cold. Size. Strength / power. Rage.

    Those are all good, strong words. Just in themselves, those words will evoke some powerful imagery, but what else can evoke those things? To find the answer, lets explore a little of the associations we have with "frost" and "giant."

    For cold, we could have frozen breath, thin air, or falling snow. Wind is also something I associate with cold, and that makes me think of storms. Thunder is a big scary noise that kind of sounds like a giant's steps. Maybe a lightning storm is in order for this battle.

    Size: Size is height, weight, inertia and momentum. It is both unstoppable force and immovable object. I will want to choose words that sound like or have a strong connection to those things.

    Strength: I want scary strength here. The ability to rip and tear and crush and throw. Giants can hurl boulders in Pathfinder, and that is pretty cool, so I'll go with that.

    Rage: I think of a roaring lion or bear when I think of rage. Eyes popping and veins bulging. Something that is barely under control, if at all. When a bad guy is in a rage, the PCs should be 100% sure that he is coming for blood.

    Okay, that's some good stuff so let's do it.

    The storm rages all around, freezing rain slicing through clothing and stinging skin. Lightning spits the air as your party remains locked in battle with the ogres, their blood and yours spattering the snow, steam rising off it like smoke from temple incense.

    Then at once a great mane of white hair crests the hill, a mane as wide as a feasting table. Behind it comes the head and upper body of Grongir, the Frost Giant King, his battle crown adorned with the antlers of dozens of elk.

    His footsteps are thunder that shake the hillside. His breastplate is a wall of steel that could deflect catapult shot. His arms are as big around as the body of a great bear.

    In one titanic hand he clutches a morning star that outweighs any of you, it's spikes long enough to impale you straight through the chest. His knuckles crack as he tightens his grip, loud as logs splitting.

    The Frost King's massive eyes bulge as he opens his mouth and roars, and he levels his morning star at you before starting his charge, an impossible juggernaut who could blast the life from you with weight alone. The morning star comes down like a meteor, whistling through the frozen air.

    What do you do?

    Okay now some things to notice about that post: 1) I only use five adjectives and zero adverbs 2) I make up the difference by choosing strong, evocative works like pound, clutch, split and roar. I use big noises and good word pairing like impossible with juggernaut. This guy has cracking knuckles and bulging eyes and could kill you with his weight alone. Tell me that doesn't sound like a good fight.

    For these big descriptions I really want to emphasize word choice. It's more than just finding the right synonym, its about finding works that evoke the feeling you are looking for. If I want to describe something big, I run into the problem that "big" isn't a word with much punch. Huge is better, massive is better still. Titanic is a word that will really knock your teeth in.

    Try using simile, which is the technique of saying one thing is like another thing. All of us have heard these in phrases like "brave as a lion." One way I like to use simile is just to call something another thing entirely: "The barbarian was a storm, an avalanche, the wrath of some injured god." The reader will understand that I don't mean the barbarian was literally these things, but that he was like these things. I find that simile used in this way creates a description with a lot of impact. It's a powerful technique but use it sparingly or it loses some of that potency.

    I hit all my major frost giant points. It's cold, he's big, he's powerful, he's pissed off.

    Okay so here's the user participation part: Give me a description of a big bad from your game (or would-be game.) Assume it is the first time the PCs have laid eyes on him, and tell me why you described him or her the way you did.

    Go ahead, knock my teeth in.
    Last edited by cailano; 02-15-2014 at 01:09 AM.
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    In retrospect, Marcy probably did the right thing. After all, she did let Black Leaf die.

  9. #219
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    No one? Come on someone has to be up for the challenge.
    Want to be a Game Master? Training and Tips at The D Academy

    In retrospect, Marcy probably did the right thing. After all, she did let Black Leaf die.

  10. #220
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    I generally do not GM PbP games, but I just wanted to toss in that you can make these same powerful descriptions with your flavor text for dungeons and such as well. Here are some that I have for current and past dungeons:

    This chamber smells of blood. The northeastern portion contains a large square basin, the rim of which is decorated with a convoluted bas-relief texture that resembles a jungle of snakes and slugs. A wooden platform to the west of the basin is cluttered with various alchemical supplies and surgical tools. Within the basin is a drop of three feet to the surface of a pool of what appears to be blood. A network of thin crystalline tubes extend out of the wall above the basin, pass through its rim, and emerge along the inner rim, each one protruding like a tiny spigot over the pool below.

    This was purely a room of flavor. No enemies and nothing of value for the PCs in this room. But the first sentence sets the tone for the rest of the text. I immediately engage my players by evoking one of their senses. The rest of the description serves as just enough detail to draw attention without making the room one the players will gloss over entirely, allowing them to investigate and learn more information about the BBEG they are pursuing.

    This room is a cacophony of flame and hammers and anvils. Through the smoke and din you see three reptilian creatures, wreathed in flame, busy forging weapons and armor of various shapes and sizes. In the southwest corner is a small pile of their completed work.

    Again I use one of the player's senses to spark their imagination. Sound this time, and in your minds eye you can almost see the smoke clear just enough to see the salamander blacksmiths toiling over their anvils and forges.
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