Countdown to Extra Life

Okay, so my dice tower post is slowly becoming the “Sex & D&D” of my site (don’t get that joke? Start here, and you’re welcome). It’s coming, I promise. Just having issues with hot glue, as one does.

1173Since I’m just three scant days away from 25 hours of continuous gaming, I thought I’d make a penultimate post about Extra Life. This is my first year taking part and I am part of Team Knifeshoes, founded by my friend Devin. I’m pals with pretty much the entire team, so I’m in nerdy good company. While the majority of my team is focused on video games of one description or another, I am bringing the tabletop skillz this year, as I mentioned in an earlier post. If you are in Edmonton and want to take part, here are the links to the Facebook and Meetup event pages.

Children’s charities always have a special place for me. Growing up I was a very healthy child. Apart from the usual spate of injuries caused while under the influence of being a kid, and a bout of pneumonia when I was in my early teens, I grew up hale and hearty. I got to play as much as a kid is supposed to, take part in sports, I was active in the Boy Scouts; your standard Canadian boy’s childhood. The worst thing I can imagine for a child is to not have that luxury. For a child to not be able to play when they want, or to know they will never get to play. That’s terrible for the kids and it has to be heartbreaking for the families as well.

I’m not a doctor or an engineer, so I can’t do anything for these kids directly. But I am a nerd and I can play games. And if playing games for 25 hours helps raise money for these kids, helps fund the doctors and engineers that can help them directly, I’d be pretty damn selfish not to take part in this event.

I hope you agree, and will support Extra Life. I’d love it if you sent a donation through my page. Any amount will do; seriously, if every FB friend, website subscriber, and Twitter follower donated a dollar it would blow my team’s goal out of the water. So don’t be shy, and don’t think your donation won’t help. And if you don’t want to donate through my page, that’s cool. Search the teams and participants on the Extra Life page, I wouldn’t be surprised if you have a local team or player that would welcome your donation.

Thank-you in advance for helping Extra Life, Team Knifeshoes, and me make sure kids get to play.


3 Resources to Help Build Future Gamers

The promised dice tower construction tutorial has been delayed by a day due to technical difficulties. While I sort those out, I thought I’d talk a bit about kids and gaming.

The last question in the 30 Days of Game Mastering Challenge is “How do we grow our hobby?”. You can read my extended answer there when I post it, but the short answer is: get kids involved. The only way the hobby is going to keep growing is if it has a steady influx of new players, bringing new ideas and perspectives, and a fresh love of tabletop gaming. Yes, there are any number of people who come to the hobby in their 20s and 30s and stick around because they love it. That’s great, and I’ll never say a thing against anyone who came to the hobby late. The minute you pick up dice and have fun, you’re a gamer nerd just like me; welcome to the table!

But in order to keep the hobby growing, not just adding new players but actually developing and innovating, is through kids. The hobby needs people who grow up with gaming and often become the person they become because of games. In my opinion, those are the folks most likely to have an impact on the hobby’s development and growth. There will always be exceptions, but I think it is every gamer’s responsibility to foster that love of gaming in children whenever they have the opportunity.

That said, here are three on-line resources to help you teach tabletop games to kids:

1) GeekMom and GeekDad – Probably the best resource I can recommend, not just for teaching games but in raising a young nerd, are the GeekMom and GeekDad articles over at Wired. While they run the gamut of nerdy topics, a quick search of the gaming tag will yield a plethora of tips, suggestions, and advice about gaming with and for children. Both Mom and Dad have a wide range of entertaining articles about gaming with kids, and it’s well worth a read through if you are planning to bring kids into gaming.

2) Pathfinder Society: Kid’s Track – If you are looking to teach the Pathfinder RPG to kids, Paizo has created a four part lesson plan called Kid’s Track to help you get started. This free download works in concert with the Pathfinder Beginner Box and the scenarios from the Beginner Box Bash. While the information on game play is specific to the Pathfinder RPG, the guide has a treasure-trove of game neutral advice on how to GM for kids: keeping their attention, how long to spend on each topic, and so on. The guide even has time recommendations next to each section to help keep you on track and keep the session moving. I can tell you from observation the Kid’s Track works. Paizo runs a Kid’s Track at Gen Con every year, and it is always packed with kids learning the game and likely getting their first exposure to gaming. I highly recommend you take a look at the resource, even if you are starting with another game, because hacking it to work with another RPG would not be difficult.

3) Role-playing Games for Kids – Branching off from the site of John H. Kim started in 1994, his Role-playing Games for Kids page has a great starting list of commercial games aimed at children, as well as links to other on-line resources. There is even a list of free RPGs for kids, so you can introduce kids to our fine hobby with just a few clicks of the mouse. There are even links to actual game play reports from EN World and others, so if you want to get a sense of what gaming for kids is like before you jump in, give them a look.

There you are, three resources to help you bring the yoots into our fun and exciting hobby. Do you have any suggestions on kids and gaming? Drop them in the comments!

Altered States

Starting the week off with updates about Renaissance Gamer, because some things are, you guessed it, changing. I’m going back to a M-F update schedule. I tried M-W-F, or sometimes T-Th-Sat, but that usually resulted in a single post and an “eff you!” to the rest of the week. Habit is everything when it comes to writing on a regular basis, and working through the 30 Days of GMing Challenge showed me I can post everyday. But since I do need a few days a week just for me and nerdy gaming things, I’m compromising with M-F.

Speaking of the GMing Challenge, you won’t see the last posts for it here on the blog proper. It seems that Triple Crit, the originators of the challenge, stopped updating theirs around Day 19. I am finishing out the full 30 days though; not only is it a great writing exercise but I think the questions are useful and allow me to give some good advice and tips on GMing. So I created a page containing all the 30 Days of Game Mastering posts in one spot. I’ll finish answering the questions over the next week or so, and then all the Game Master-y goodness will be located in one spot for your enjoyment. I’ll also go back from time to time and edit or add to the information, as things change for me as a GM, or new resources make themselves available. It also occurs to me that, with seven entries to go and a word count now around 15,000, there must be a way for me to turn all that advice into some sort of Game Mastering PDF. So I’ve put that on my “to do” list, albeit lower down.

Work proceeds apace on my own first gaming supplement in the “Argent’s Guide” series. I’ll post something soon about “Fulroar’s Longhouse”, give you a taste of what’s to come. Getting back to the idea of building good writing habits, the Gamer Lifestyle Bootcamp has been worth it’s weight in a metal much more valuable than gold. If you’ve thought about writing a game resource for a while now but don’t really know where to start, I can’t recommend this course enough. It breaks the process of creating a gaming resource down into manageable chunks and makes the project easy to fit into even the busiest of schedules. Jump on the next one, you won’t be sorry.

And game editing continues as well. Friday I made a “proud papa” post about Foreign Element, and I’ve been helping out with a few other smaller supplements as well. I’ll also be working on Issue #10 of the Wayfinder Fanzine. It seems I did a good enough job on Issue #9 to be invited back, which makes me happy. It’s one of my favourite Pathfinder resources, so to contribute to its continued success in some way is gratifying. Seriously, guys and dolls, not only is it packed full of Pathfinder goodness, but it’s free. You can’t beat that, so go pick it up.

Also, I meant to do some sort of milestone contest when I hit my 200th post on the blog…and I blew right past 200 without realizing it. This post included I think I’m at 213? Anyway, I’ll have a contest with actual prizes for my 250th post, which should fall sometime in December close to the Solstice. Entry will be easy, and open to anyone subscribing to the blog. Prizes will be an assortment of gaming swag: miniatures, books, things I custom make for you. We’ll see, but keep your eyes peeled for that. And if you’ve enjoyed any of my posts but haven’t subscribed, now’s your chance. Heck, bring a friend!

And that’s where we’ll leave this episode of Update Brag. If you have any questions or comments, there is a place for that and you should use it. I’ll be back tomorrow with Part 1 of “Building a Dice Tower”. There will be pictures and everything!

Foreign Element RPG

Yes, the title does mean that my next 30 Days of GMing post is delayed. Again. Bit busy finding my illness/work balance, and something had to give. But I wanted to take a moment to promote something cool I worked on.

The Foreign Element RPG is a game for anyone who likes fast-paced, B-movie style fun at the gaming table. Published by Mystic Ages Publishing and written by Nathan J. Hill, the game is set in a dystopian far future, where mankind has reached out into the stars…and discovered the stars don’t really want us. It is a great storytelling game with a fun narrative mechanic, and it really includes the players in constructing the action. It is also straightforward and easy to learn, making it a great game for a one-off, but with enough depth in the setting that you will want to stick around and play your characters a while. At least until the universe catches up to them and their number is up.

And, oh yeah, did I mention I edited the game? Because I did. Nathan contacted me after I posted in the Freelance section at the forums, offering my editing services. We exchanged emails, got a good feeling about each other, and I was lucky enough to get the job. Lucky, because it’s wonderful to work on a game you know you’d enjoy playing. also lucky, because while I have been editing a number of supplements for people, this was the first rules set I’ve edited. So I was happy to get that experience, and it’s given me a taste for more of the same.

So please, if you like your sci-fi gaming fast and furious, pick up a PDF copy of Foreign Element. And if you are working on an RPG project and need an editor, drop me a line. My rates are reasonable and I love working on good, new RPG material.

Extra Life Update and Game Schedule

1173Taking a break from the 30 Days of Game Mastering Challenge. Don’t worry, I’ll catch up tomorrow. But today I’m talking about my Extra Life fundraising, because the day is fast approaching.

I am not a serious, hard-core video gamer. I have my moments; I play more World of Tanks and World of Warcraft than is probably healthy, and I love getting into games like Card Hunters. But when you compare my “skillz” to just about anyone else on Team Knifeshoes, I’m not a first round draft pick. But while I’m weak in some areas I have very specific strengths, sort of like a Special Teams player. So I’m going with my strengths on this fundraiser, and I’ll be Game Mastering my way through the 25 hours.

Here’s my schedule for the day as it stands right now (all times Mountain Standard):

  • 8am-10am: World of Warcraft. Join me on the Garrosh server if you want to play along or chat.
  • 10am-2pm: GMing my regular Kingmaker campaign for my group. Sorry, can’t join me for this one, I have a full table.
  • 2pm-3pm: More World of Warcraft, cleansing my palette for the long night of GMing ahead.
  • 3pm-8pm: Pathfinder Module We Be Goblins, Too! A fantastic sequel to We Be Goblins!, once again players take on the role of those loveable psychos of Pathfinder universe. Goblin pre-gens are provided, and the table is open to 6 players. You don’t have to be a PFS player for this one, though you can become one pretty easily. Please pre-register on the Facebook or Meetup event page.
  • 8pm-1am: Pathfinder Society Scenario #4-EX: Day of the Demon. This is an exclusive scenario that can only be run by a Venture Officer or Paizo employee, so if you’re an Edmonton PFS player, I hope you’ll join me for this one. I can accept up to six players; please pre-register on the Facebook or Meetup event page.
  • 1am-6am: Pathfinder Society Scenario #5-04: The Stolen Heir. This is a Tier 1-5 scenario, and as part of the Year of the Demon season, makes a great follow-up to #4-EX. Please register on the Facebook or Meetup event page; new players welcome and pre-gens will be provided.
  • 6am-8am: This may end up being buffer time, depending on how long the other sessions go. But assuming they end on time I’ll finish off with World of Warcraft or World of Tanks.

You might be saying, “But Brent, you said 25 hours but that’s only 24. What gives, jerk?” Well my faithful strawman, November 3 at 2am is Daylight Savings, so we’ll roll the clocks back an hour and keep on gaming. Thus, the magic 25 hours.

If you want to play in any of the games listed, the rules are simple. Pre-register on either the Facebook or Meetup event pages so I know how many I have coming for each table. Then make a donation on my Extra Life page to support the Children’s Miracle Network. Any donation amount will do (recommended minimum is $5), and any donations of $25 or more will get a tax receipt. If you prefer to give me the donation on the day rather than use the site, please indicate that in the comments wherever you register. If you have not done one of those two things (donated or pledged to pay on the day), before the evening of October 31 (next Thursday), your seat will be offered up to another player. This is for charity, guys and dolls; you have to donate to play.

In addition to playing some awesomely fun games, I’ll also have prizes available. I have Pathfinder Tales novels, miniatures, dice and a few other surprises I’ll talk about later. Everyone who shows up to play is entered in the draws for these prizes, and you can get extra entries on the day by making extra donations. Game, support an amazing charity, and possible win cool swag; what could be better?

In the event I don’t have enough folks pre-registered for a slot, I’ll either throw the slot open to general board-gaming (donate to play), or I’ll pass the time playing World of Warcraft. I’d rather play games with people, though, so make sure you pre-register.

If you have any questions about Extra Life or my gaming schedule, drop them in the comments and I’ll be sure to respond. And hey, if you can’t make it out but still want to support the Children’s Miracle Network, click on the graphic to the right. It will take you to my secure page and you can donate to your heart’s content. Honestly, any amount helps and any amount is appreciated. And thanks in advance for your support!


30 Days of Game Mastering, Day Twenty-two

We are close to the end of 30 Days of Game Mastering Challenge, closing in on the final week. I hope folks have enjoyed this. I had and am having a lot of fun, and with the exception of a minor hiccup last week, I like having a constant stream of posts. It is very likely I’ll go back to daily posting when the challenge is over, but for now on with the show!

A novel solution: what’s the best advice you have borrowed from a totally different field?

I freelance as an editor, and spend a lot of my working time with genre fiction. One of the best pieces of advice I received early on and spread around wherever I can is: show, don’t tell. In fiction this means instead of writing “He felt sad.”, which is static and frankly boring, you write something like, “His gaze lingered on her scarf by the door, and he choked back a sob. He poured himself another drink and curled up on the couch in the comfortable dark.” Both methods convey the character’s sadness, but the second method is both more interesting and conveys much more information without using a huge exposition dump.

“Show, don’t tell” can be applied to GMing as well. Instead of telling players how evil the villain is when he’s introduced, show him doing something despicable. It’s cliche, but have him punishing a subordinate as the characters approach. Have the vampire villain stop in the middle of his conversation for a “snack”. It’s much more interesting and exciting for your players than just telling them the villain is evil. It also opens up the chance to surprise your players with the villain. If she’s been acting normal up to that point, then suddenly stabs someone to death in alley, that’s a great “Holy crap!” moment for the players.

And it doesn’t have to be reserved for villains. You can use the technique for any of your NPCs to give them a bit of flavour and bring them alive. Don’t tell them the blacksmith is angry; instead describe him hammering more furiously. Don’t tell them the innkeeper is obsequious; describe how he instantly switches on a smile and agrees with everything the characters say. Giving your players these types of descriptions instead of just telling them what an NPC is like also makes their Perception and Sense Motive checks more useful. After all, how a character acts may or may not have a connection to what they actually think or feel.

Showing instead of telling opens up a whole new way of both providing and hiding information from the players. If you aren’t used to it, don’t feel bad if it takes a while to get into the habit and rhythm of it. Just keep plugging away, and spend a bit of time practising your descriptions, and you’ll soon have a whole new tool in your GM’s bag of tricks.

What’s your best bit of advice from a different field? Drop it in the comments and share with the group. Tomorrow we talk about mechanics and story.

30 Days of Game Mastering, Day Twenty-one

As we enter the final third of the 30 Days of Game Mastering Challenge, we start to look at more “meta” questions. Questions like…

What are your favourite books about game mastering?

My hands-down favourite book on game mastering is Robin’s Laws of Good Game Mastering, written by Robin D. Laws and published by Steve Jackson Games. Sadly out-of-print in dead tree version, but still available as a PDF, this is my go-to game mastering book. I re-read it cover to cover at least once a year, and I’m constantly referencing it when I run campaigns. It is a great setting-neutral source for GMing advice, and I’d hand it out to every starting GM if I could. If you don’t have it, get the PDF. I promise you won’t be sorry.

If you GM Pathfinder, there are two books you must have: the Game Mastery Guide and Ultimate Campaign. I’ve talked about the Game Mastery Guide before, so I really don’t have anything to add. It is full of useful information you will be happy to have at your fingertips when prepping and running a Pathfinder game. Ultimate Campaign expands on that information, giving you suggestions and tips on: expanding character backgrounds; what to do in the downtime between adventures and how to make that downtime fun for the player; how to adjudicate things like magic item creation and retraining; creating and running a kingdom, in case your players have an urge to rule. Just about anything your players might get into during a prolonged campaign is covered in the pages of this book, and it’s a great resource for any GM. Heck, a lot of the information is presented in a setting-neutral manner, so even if you don’t play Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign is going to be useful.

Finally, if you are looking for a GM guide for world-building, the best one I’ve found is the Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding, published by Kobold Press. It features essays by gaming luminaries such as Wolfgang Baur, Keith Baker, Monte Cook, David “Zeb” Cook, Jeff Grubb, Scott Hungerford, Chris Pramas, Jonathan Roberts, Michael A. Stackpole, Steve Winter, and Ken Scholes. It is packed with great meaty gobs of world-building tips, tricks and advice. The thing I love about this book is that there are some conflicting ideas on world-building, which means the book has something for you regardless of your personal views on world creation. This is another book I re-read often, and you need to have it one your shelf if you plan to create your own campaign worlds.

What GMing books are your “must haves”? Leave a note in the Comments, and we’ll see you tomorrow for advice from a different field.