Dragon Snacks #2

It’s the last Tuesday of the month and that means it’s time for more of those mighty morsels called Dragon Snacks. So let’s get right into the Dragon’s kitchen.

War, what is it good for? When was the last time you played in a campaign where war was the major focus? Sure, some settings have overtones of a coming war, or they have war going on in the background, but when was the last time it was front and center, the main event of the entire game? It’s an interesting space to play in. You can have battles as a regular occurrence, tense political intrigue, and a very active world with shifting boarders. A campaign based on war can hook players quickly and keep them actively involved for a long time.

To the death, I grapple with thee. Why do all fights usually end in the death of one or more of the groups involved? It’s like a natural instinct for any group, no matter the system. I think a part of it is players always assume their enemies are out to murder them. I know I’ve done it. Maybe try to give your players an alternative to killing their enemies or put them in a situation that they have to escape from to see what their instincts are. Maybe it’ll teach them that death isn’t always the answer.

Retro is the way to go. I’ve noticed a recent trend in games that is a step back towards their origin and I really dig it. Dungeons and Dragons was originally developed from a miniatures wargame called Chainmail. There’s a little more to the story than that, but that’s the basics of the basics. Recent games like Savage Worlds and Iron Kingdoms are closer to miniatures games than RPGs. I love minis, so this greater emphasis on them is fine by me. From what I’ve seen, this new trend has lead to faster game play and smoother game sessions (at least from what I’ve seen).

So there you have it, three more Dragon Snacks. As always, comment here if you have anything to say on these subjects.



Other Things to Play: GIANT Cthulhu Dice

I love dice, everyone knows that. If I could play with dice every day, I would. So I naturally gravitate towards dice based games. Cthulhu Dice, another fine product from Steve Jackson Games, is a simple and addictive game. It consists of a handful of beads and a single die. The beads represent your sanity as you try to drive the other cultists insane and take control of the cult while the die represents your ability to attack and defend. The die has 12 sides and five different symbols based on the Cthulhu mythos. Each dies causes a specific result when rolled. On your turn you roll to attack another player and they then roll to defend themselves. If you roll the Yellow Sign, the person who wasn’t rolling must put a sanity in the communal pool in the center (this is Cthulhu’s), if you roll the Tentacle, the attacking player gets a sanity from the defending player, even if the defending player rolled it. If you roll the Elder Sign, you get a sanity bead from the central pool. If you roll Cthulhu, every player loses a bead, and if you roll the Eye, you get the pick the outcome of the roll. When you lose all your sanity, your goal becomes preventing anyone from winning. And yes, it’s possible for everyone to lose at the same time.

It’s a fun game. A slightly oversized die with some beads, but there is a way to make it better, to make it more fun, to increase the scale.

Cthulhu die

My weapon of choice

I am the proud owner of GIANT Cthulhu dice. It’s made of squishy foam and tons of fun to whip at your intended target. It doesn’t hurt because the die is made of foam (I think the actual size one would hurt more) and the active element increases the experience. The giant version was originally used to demo the game at conventions, but there was so much interest in it Steve Jackson Games produced it for general consumption.

This game is a great little thing. Very easy to transport and very quick to play. Both versions are a must have, especially if you love dice as much as I do.


Iron Kingdoms: First Impressions

When I was in college, wargaming was the flavor of the time. Warhammer 40k was the major event for my college group. But, in 2007 I discovered the new thing, I found Warmachine. Warmachine was all about giant steam mechs pounding each other into dirt and I was captivated by this steampunk world with its extreme violence, unorthodox magic, and black powder weapons. Unfortunately, 40k continued to be the top game at my school. Warmachine, despite my best efforts, never caught on.

Years later, I’m offered a spot in a game of their new role playing system. I jumped at the chance. The first thing I notice about this game is it plays exactly like the tabletop game. Combat is identical to the point where you need to have miniatures and terrain to get the full effect. That’s one downside, if you don’t have the right miniatures, your experience will suffer. You use only d6’s, just like the tabletop game. You have a brace of weapons that work exactly like in the tabletop game. And you have spells that not only look, but function like the spells in the tabletop game.

The high point of this game has to be character creation. It’s quick, easy, and really open. You can make a character that emulates one of your favorite characters in Warmachine or you can go nuts and make something really unique and your own. What you do is pick one of three Archetypes and then two careers. Archtypes are things that decide the overall major aspect of your character like if he’s strong or magically inclined, while careers are more specific to what you character can actually do like Knight, Gun Mage, or Warcaster. Creation takes less than an hour all together.

Combat is smooth and incredibly fast. I don’t think we had a fight last longer than half an hour. It takes a cue from the game it’s based on by minimizing math and rolls. You’re always rolling the same die and the numbers don’t change that much. Health is on the low end, so things die before the fight starts to drag on. And random damage allocation adds an exciting element to overall experience.

Iron Kingdoms is a blast, there is a very clear reason this game is selling out everywhere. The game is slick and a lot of fun. I can’t wait to play it again. This book is a definite buy.

The Hard Goodbye

I’ve written about ending games before, but sometimes those endings are unplanned. Every now and then, a campaign will end suddenly, without your consent. When this happens, you have to keep the spark alive. Don’t let this extended break kill your love of running campaigns.  There are a lot of things you can do to keep the torch burning.

The first thing to do is not panic. Don’t get upset, or angry, or blame anyone. Getting mad is only going to help contribute to your DM’s burnout. This is only going to lead to you wanting to DM again. Stay calm and look at it objectively. Life happens. So relax, and enjoy the new free time you have.

Think about it, you have the time now, you can expand your hobby, and you can take up a new game, anything you want. That miniatures game you’ve been coveting, take it up. That hot new roleplaying system, try it out. You have the bandwidth now to do the game you you want. But don’t stop running games.

Run some one-offs. Now’s the time to experiment with those new settings and systems you’ve been wanting to try. This is the time to do the things you’d never do with your normal group, to find new players, and discover new ways of running your table. Use this time to grow as a DM. Work on the weaknesses in your game, write adventures that wouldn’t have fit in your old campaign, and make yourself better for your next campaign.

This is the time to start planning that next game. You have the time to play with ideas and themes now. Make the world you’ve been daydreaming about for months. Your next game will be better from this forethought. The planning will lead to more rounded and robust world. You can take your time and make a game world you’ll be proud of.

And take some time to sit on the other side of the table. Playing gives you a better perspective on roleplaying than anything else. Seeing how others run games, build worlds, and approach adventures is a huge learning experience. By experiencing what others do right, you can absorb it and make it your own, if you like it.

So, instead of looking at this as a bad thing, look at it like this: you’re free. Like the man from the Twilight Zone, you have time now, just be careful with your glasses.