Dragon Snacks 3

It’s the last Tuesday of the month, and that means it’s time for more of those mental morsels, Dragon Snacks! This month, I’m talking about roleplaying. What follows are tips and tricks to make the roleplaying in your game smoother, better, and more consistent.

Why should you portray every NPC? Here’s the situation: two characters are talking to each other, neither are players, and you’re not the best at voices. So, these two similar sounding people are talking to each other, neither of them are using names, and you look like a crazy person. And this entire time, a group of people are idly watching you. Why not put one of them to work? Give the lines for one of those NPCs to one of your players. Let them portray the NPC. They’re going to hear this stuff anyway, why not get them more involved?

Your villain is wishy-washy and has a vague plan. This is a common problem (one I’ve had at least). Sometimes things just start to lose focus. The campaign is being changed by the actions of your players and you’re desperate for them to keep encountering your villain.  You start changing things and putting your villain in situations that just don’t fit his goals. A great exercise to avoid this is to write your villains goal down. Write down his goal, his plan, and how he’s going to get there. This will keep you on course when you’re in the game and your group starts throwing curveballs at you.

How do you make it obvious that players are dealing with members of a certain group? There’s an easy way to solve this problem. Take three adjectives that describe a typical member of your group, write them down, and whenever they meet a nameless member of the group, keep those three adjectives in mind while portraying. For example, in my current campaign, there are a group of warriors dedicated to Bane (evil god of war) called the Wyrmbreaker Knights. If I was to describe them in three words, I’d say “driven, loyal, and cocksure.” Whenever they encounter a member of this group, he’ll act accordingly, and hopefully the players will be able to tell him over an NPC that isn’t a member of the Wyrmbreaker Knights.

There you have it. Some hints to help your roleplaying. Next week, I’ll write about the start of my new campaign. You know how I love beginnings.

The DtK Method for Collaborative Worldbuilding

Our map in progress.

Our map in progress.

Last week I talked about how I was doing some collaborative worldbuilding with my new group. I spoke about how involving your players in the worldbuilding process is a rich and rewarding experience and how I had come up with a method to do it that was working great. Well, here it is. I’m calling it the Dragon’s Kingdom. It’s based on the entanglements system for building a game. You need a poster map and a marker. It consists of 3 steps:

Step 1 – Dictates

For the first step your players (and you, if you choose) each write an overarching rule for your setting. They can be anything like ‘magic is dangerous and feared’, ‘dragons are extinct’ or ‘the spirits have abandoned the world, primal power does not exist’. The idea is to not make them to specific. Aim for between 8-12. Make sure your group knows these aren’t set in stone. More on that later.

The finished product.

The finished product.

Step 2 – World

For this step, the players (and you if you choose) will place people, places, and groups on the map. People are represented by circles. Places are squares. Groups are triangles. Each item placed should be named. The first part is everyone puts a circle in front of themselves for their character. You can also place one for the antagonist if you so choose. Then, on the first round of step one, each person will place two items on the map. Every round after, each person will place one item. Aim for 4 or 5 rounds, depending on the size of your group.

Step 3 – Relationships

This is the fun step. Your players (and again, you if you choose) will map how the people, places, and things in your setting relate to each other. To do this, those participating draw lines from the items on the map to other items on the map. Then, the relationship between those items is defined by who drew the line. During the first round, each person draws 2 relationships. The next round is what I call a ‘meta-round’. In a meta-round, the person whose turn it is has the choice of drawing a new relationship or altering something. They can draw a line through a relationship and define how that relationship ended or they can alter a dictate by adding to it. Yes, a person can redraw the altered relationship, representing a further change to it. Also, a dictate cannot be removed and it can only be altered once. For example, with the ‘dragons are extinct’ example I changed it by writing ‘assumed, because they haven’t been seen in a long time.’ After this each person draws a relationship.  Then you do another meta-round. Go on like this until you feel there are enough relationships on your map.

So there you have it, the Dragon’s Kingdom. You have my full permission to use it. Let me know if it works for you too!

Three Ways to Worldbuild with Your Group

So I’m on the cusp of starting a new campaign with a new group and I’ve decided to try something different. Instead of simply making a new world on my own or running a published setting, I thought it would be fun for my new group (it’s the first campaign for all of them) to make a world with me. I’ll go deeper into the process, which has been working splendidly, after we’ve finished, but first some other ideas for worldbuilding as a group:

The first idea is pretty simple. You start with an essentially blank slate. Then, each player adds one element to the world that ties to their characters backstory. For example, the dwarf is from a mountain stronghold that was once lost to his people (yeah, I recently saw the Hobbit…) or the druid is a member of a powerful secret order. The major idea here is that each player will give you something juicy to work with and then you, as the DM, incorporate that element deeply into your campaign.

The next idea is for a group that wants to return a former campaign world years later. Worlds change and evolve over time, not just in the ways your old characters affected it, but in completely organic, natural, and sometimes surprising ways. Instead of coming up with all this on your own, write a bunch of generic world changes on sheets of paper like “This group has come to power because of…” or “This city is now under a different rule.” Then have the players pick these sheets of paper out of a hat and describe the changes they pick. This will give them an active say in how the world grows while they’re away from it.

The final one here might be cheating. You have the players design their own vessel. It could be an airship, traditional ship, submersible, or even a spelljammer (magic spaceship for those who don’t know) and the campaign centers on their travels in that vessel. While you are still designing the various exotic locales they’ll visit, they’ve decided with their vessel the types of adventures they want to have. The places they’ll visit in a spelljammer are very different from where they’ll go in a sailing ship.  They still have a say in the kinds of places being visited. And you can always have them make up the places too.

Letting your players in on the world building process doesn’t only take some of the work out of your hands, it also makes a world your players are much more invested in. As someone who is currently on both sides of this (playing and running), I would suggest group worldbuilding to every group. At least once.