Convention Time! June 16, 2016 11:23 3 Comments
This weekend is going to be a blast! Not only is it a convention weekend, but it’s right in my own Houston neighborhood. Comicpalooza is happening this weekend, and from previous experiences it promises to be an enjoyable one.
Getting back into the convention scene has rekindled my creative spark, and this weekend I look forward to running all sorts of new adventures I’ve written up. I’ve found I enjoy running thought-provoking mysteries and adventures with unexpected twists. While Tephra’s combat is a blast, I get the most excited when the combats are interspersed among a great storyline. When I offer a mystery and a trail of clues, I’m in my zone. Watching the players’ reactions as they discover something they didn’t expect is one of the many reasons I enjoy running games.
If you look on the Comicpalooza schedule you will find two games scheduled for each day. We’re also open to running unscheduled games for those interested - feel free to come on up and ask! We will have our newest products up for sale (and may even use them in our demos).
The d-Infinity Indie Game Awards will also be announced this weekend. If you haven’t voted for the Narrator’s Accomplice, now’s the time! Just hit this link and click vote.
The convention has been a great event in the past, filling up the massive George R. Brown center with all sorts of attractions: arcade games, comic books, artist panels, and even the occasional Time Warp. There’s no shortage of things to do and people to see. Drop on by and say hello.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or con memories you’d like to share, please comment below. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!
Setting the Pace June 3, 2016 22:10 5 Comments
This week I started a new game with some friends, and while we were writing out characters and coordinating our party setup, we got onto the topic of experience rewards and how they set the pace of the campaign. One of my friends brought up an interesting technique he uses to control the length of his campaigns, and that got me thinking of other ways to extend or control how quickly your players can level up or improve within your games.
Limited XP Options
Let’s start with the technique that spurred my thoughts. When writing out your campaign notes, it can be messy parsing out the experience rewards from the plethora of choices the players can make. Instead, set up specific events that must take place before your players gain experience; maybe restrict experience gaining to anything that progresses the plot. This helps to cut out experience grinding from parties that want to hunt down goblins one hundred times before facing a major foe. By using this method you can also reward the party with currency or rare items without quickly tilting the scales. Remember, the party needs a challenge or they will get bored.
Keep Them Poor
Similar to the previous technique, you can opt to make sure your party has a lot of work ahead of them before they can buy that special gear they’ve been eyeing. This may seem cruel, but a party lacking resources will be forced to think outside the box to overcome a situation, and this can often lead to creative and amusing solutions. Can’t afford to buy a missile launcher? Buy a missile and make do! Smash it with a hammer until it explodes, or rig it up with some sort of fuse. A low budget shouldn’t stop your party.
Skimming Off the Top
If you want to add an element of realistic chaos, then consider how the world would react to a bunch of active adventurers keeping wealth on their person. It could be stolen, or suddenly their landlord is charging more rent. Maybe they have to pay for destruction of property and that’s taken out of their reward. Even when the party is out adventuring, maybe merchants will mark up prices when inquiring wallets walk by. Doing this makes any significant reward suddenly more cherished, and cultivates uncertainty.
With these techniques, you can extend your campaign with ease. Use any combination as you like, but also make sure the party won’t get too upset. It’s one thing to provide a challenge, and another to bully your party. If any of your players are sensitive to this kind of narrating, make sure they are informed and won’t take offense.
If you have any narration techniques you would like to share, please comment below. I’d love to see what you guys do to entertain your party. Thank you for reading and, until next time, Cheers and Gears!
It’s Like The Oscars, But For Independent RPGs May 27, 2016 16:00
Whether it’s movies, music, books, or newspapers, one thing people love to do is award those that excel beyond the rest. So why shouldn’t there be one for independent tabletop companies? Introducing The d-Infinity Independent Game Awards, a handy site where anyone can vote for the company that made that wonderful game they enjoyed.
What sets this award apart is that only small or medium independent companies are eligible for submission, creating a level playing field to show their accomplishments. This also creates an excellent source for you, the voters, to discover new games you might not have heard about. The awards are more than recognition; they are great for the companies submitted.
First and foremost, these awards are a great way for these small companies to spread the word about their products. Now not only will Tephra players be able to see it, but many who have never heard of us can discover and see just how popular it is. Anything that makes this community grow is definitely worth checking out. These awards also validate our work, since the companies submitted likely don’t have the budgets to match larger companies. Many members of our team, myself included, are aspiring writers who use our free time to contribute to these projects. It’s very motivational and inspiring to see those works awarded, as that is often the only payment we will see. Finally, and most importantly, these awards let us know that you care about us, and that what we do is appreciated and well-received.
To see our submission for the Narrator’s Accomplice and cast your votes, please click here. If you have any fond Tephra memories you’d like to share, please comment below. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!
Games, Geeks, and Good Times May 17, 2016 21:20 3 Comments
This weekend was one of the best I’ve had in such a long time. I attended Chupacabracon in Round Rock, Texas, and I had a blast! It was so nice representing Cracked Monocle at the con, running one-shots and connecting with new players. I was also introduced to some interesting new tabletop games that were so easy to pick up and fun to play.
It has been ages since I have run one-shots at a convention, and I didn’t realize how much I missed it. My groups were very fun to run for, and some of the players attended all three of my games. Seeing people enjoy my games has really inspired me to write more short adventures, and I especially enjoyed the looks on their faces as they created and leveled their characters. It reminds me of the feeling I had when I first met Cracked Monocle and the world of Tephra. That spark of excitement as you flip through the book and discover your character’s potential is one of the greatest feelings in the world. As for my modules, I took the initiative and made sure each one had a different feeling to them, and after this weekend I feel confident I can publish these.
My first module was a combat-heavy session in which a masquerade party was crashed by a madman determined to acquire himself a new face. What I really liked in this module was how quickly the party banded together and worked as a team. I’ve often said that the most overpowered thing a party can do is work together.
My second module had an even mix of combat and investigative roleplaying, in which the party is on a boat sailing for a vacation spot only to be assaulted by ayodin in the night. Once the initial threat was taken care of, the party then took the initiative and worked together to figure out why they were attacked. My favorite part was when they had a “polite” conversation with the captain and left him crying in the corner.
My last module focused mostly on investigative roleplaying with a small combat interlude in the middle. The party was hired to investigate some property damage and found themselves wrapped up in a strange love story. I don’t often get to throw out false leads or cryptic clues to my party, but with each revelation in the story they became more engaged.
When I wasn’t running my sessions, I was either sitting at the sales table chatting up anyone nearby, or I was exploring the great games others were representing. One table close to ours had two interesting games that just about all of us took turns playing over the weekend. The first game we tried was Shootout, a Western-theme card game where you and your opponent(s) take turns flipping and discarding cards until a showdown is flipped. The goal is to arm yourself for these showdowns and win, but there’s more than one way to do so. The other game, made by the same company, was Palette Swap. The goal of this game is to acquire different color combinations on your side and your opponent’s side based on the objectives in your hand. Both games have an interesting psychological element that is definitely fun to play with.
In three short days I had a better time than I have had in months, and I look forward to returning to the con scene. If you’re hoping to catch us at a future con, keep an eye out on the blog or on our pages. We love seeing you guys when we go out there!
Thank you all for reading. If you have any con memories you would like to share or conventions you’d like us to attend, please comment below. Until next time, Cheers and Gears!
Sagas: One Bite at a Time March 30, 2016 08:48
For someone who hasn’t run a saga before, it can look like a lot of work. Ask any narrator you know and they’ll tell you how much work they put in. Don’t worry, because the size of the project is all about perspective. Let’s look into what I call “Bite-Size Sagas.”
When I started running games, I ran one-shot adventures. It’s easier on the Narrator because you only need enough content to last a few hours, and that small window of time allows for a lot of improvisation. When I started looking into running sagas, I was concerned that I may lose interest if the project was too big. Then I thought about how I wrote essay papers in school, and that inspired me to start treating sagas like an essay.
To create your Bite-Sized Sagas, you first need an outline of your story. Make sure to emphasize only the important plot points. Once you see your story written out like that, take each plot point and break it down into smaller pieces. For example: One of my plot points involves uncovering a noble’s horrible secret. Well, the party won’t up and find a secret lying on the road. That’s going to take at least three sessions, so I’ll allow it to take five to include time spent exploring and general player shenanigans, and in each session the party will get a clue to guide them back to the plot point. Once you do this for your plot points, you have a general idea on how many sessions your saga will take. All you need to do at this point is fully write out your first, and maybe second, session preparation notes.
As you progress through your saga, you’ll take some time and write out the next session notes. If something didn’t go as you thought it would, you don’t have to go and rewrite everything afterward. All you need is to change the reason your events take place. In an adventure, mark down the important parts as Point A and Point B. How the party gets there can be unknown and unpredictable. You may also take inspiration from your party members and change certain points of the saga. As long as you keep your notes organized and tidy, you won’t feel overwhelmed or scattered about. I’ve been using this method for two years now, and it’s made my sagas much easier to manage.
Thank you guys for reading! Comment below if you have your own techniques you’d like to share, or if you have questions that weren’t answered in this article. Until next time, cheers and gears!
Building a Better Sim March 18, 2016 22:35 34751 Comments
A new member of the Tephra community asked a question that started a discussion on our development page. We love answering questions on how to go about building specific character ideas, and this question was my favorite one so far.
We were asked if it was possible to build a simulacron with a turret that is either mounted on its back or appears from inside its back, and how we would go about building this. This involves my favorite things: Simulacrons, prosthetics, and turrets. We then took our time to go over the idea and see where we could come at it. Many of us had the same idea with different tweaks. One idea was completely different and, I thought, amusing and interesting. Let’s go over the ways this could be built.
Be the Turret
Strictly using the Playing Guide, this build is mostly aesthetic and flavor, but interesting nonetheless. The Specialties needed are Prosthetician, Turret Stance, and Itchy Trigger Finger. This allows you to build a prosthetic arm on your back and be the turret. Your Turret and Itchy Trigger Finger will give you plenty of opportunities to make shots, though some at the cost of accuracy, and because you’re a Sim, you won’t suffer the wounds lost from adding the extra limb, nor do you need the nerve crafting specialty thanks to the Augmentable Body trait. If you take the Armed for Battle trait from the random traits, your arm can then become the gun you need. Plus, this build is possible to make at first level so you can build yourself as you level up to become a better turret.
The Auto Turret
This build uses the Armsmith Extra expansion, specifically the Turret Builder specialty. Because turrets are weapons that simply require a stance to fire with, they can still be mounted on anything on which an average gun could be mounted. So, the specialties needed are: Gunsmith, Turret Builder, They’re All Guns To Me. You can take the Mechanical Knowledge random trait for your Sim to provide the weapon mount augment and any other augment you want. Now, this build has a specific objective, but it can always be adjusted for your taste. The first augment for the turret is Automated, which requires that you have invested a single point in automata. You will also need to add the Rotating Barrels augment from Armsmith in the Playing Guide to reduce the readying time to zero. The third augment needed is the Seek & Destroy System. This gives you a mounted turret that will automatically shoot any target you choose, forcing them to make a dexterity save to avoid being hit. At second level, to make this build more effective, you can take Beta Turrets and add the Body-Part Seeker and Deadly Accurate augments. The Body-Part Seeker allows your automated turret to make called shots, and the Deadly Accurate increases the damage tier, making every shot a Tier 2 damaging shot. You might also take Devastatingly Accurate in place of Body-Part Seeker to give your turret Tier 3 damaging auto-shots. The options are all yours.
The Monkey With a Minigun
One of our developers takes an interesting angle when addressing questions like this. While most of us think similarly, he will approach it from a completely different angle and produce ideas like the Monkey with a Minigun. This build makes use of the Pets and Predators expansion, which allows you to tame and create your own animal companions. It requires a compartment augment on the torso (gained by racial trait), a small animal with augments or traits that allow it to fire weapons, and a specialty or two that improve your ability to give this animal commands. Because the Pets and Predators behave differently from previous crafts, you will have to ensure you can issue a command that will be repeatedly carried out until it is achieved or you issue a new command. At the start, your pet will only act with each command. So for your monkey with a minigun, you’d have to command it every time to attack. However, with a few specialties, you can issue a complex and long-term command for the monkey to attack anyone in sight, anyone that gets close, or whatever the situation demands. This build is interesting because it combines machinery and organic life in an interesting way, and could lead to some amusing stories down the road.
Now you have some ideas for your Simulacron with a Turret, and there are still other ways to build that were not covered in this article. You could look to Clockwork Automatons for some inspiration, or take a page from the last example and look for a unique alternative. As more expansions are released, there are sure to be more amazing and amusing character builds.
Thank you all for reading! If you have any questions or any build ideas you’d like to share, feel free to comment below. We love to hear what our community comes up with, and as I mentioned we love to take on challenges like this. Until then, Cheers and Gears!
Putting the Character in NPC March 4, 2016 19:46 3 Comments
One of the best perks of being the Narrator for a saga is the ability to play and control all the NPCs the adventuring party will cross paths with. From friendly to hostile, these characters are what make the world feel alive, and players can get a lot of entertainment from interacting with an NPC they like. If you think the idea of coming up with these personalities is daunting, allow me to put those worries to rest. Here are a few tips that you can use if you find you are drawing a blank on an NPC.
Copy and Tweak
One way to generate personalities is to take inspiration from characters you have seen or read. Think about what made them stand out to you, and try to emulate them as best as you can. If you are new to Narrating, this may be a good way to help you become comfortable playing the many personalities your party interacts with. When you do this for a while, you can begin mixing and matching your character inspirations to create some new and interesting personalities.
For example: say you begin taking inspiration from classic literature. You want a clever NPC personality and a passionate NPC personality. You decide to bone up on your reading and emulate Sherlock Holmes for the first character and Victor Frankenstein for the other. As you become more familiar with narrating, maybe you decide to mix the personalities together, combining the cunning of Holmes and the passion of Frankenstein. You now have a new personality to use.
One method of generating character personalities is to reflect on yourself and take a single aspect as inspiration. Are you passionate about painting? Maybe your NPC is an art connoisseur, or an inspired painter full of wonderlust. You might decide your NPC should be passionate about a different kind of art. Maybe you have a strong disgust toward insects, and you really don’t like warm weather. Well now you can take that and create an NPC off that aspect. Once you get the hang of this, you can start using personal aspects that you don’t have. Rather than being disgusted by insects and disliking warm weather, maybe your NPC is disgusted by horses and dislikes dry weather. Using this technique can help in a pinch, while also allowing you to create your own characters as you give them more aspects over time.
Use your Party’s Characters
No, I’m not saying you should take their character sheets and play those characters. What I mean is use your players’ characters as inspiration for your NPC personalities. A good way to make an NPC they will enjoy is to make one that mirrors some of their interests, quirks, or even speaking patterns. On the other side, a good way to make a villain is to make them the opposite of a player character. If one of your players is playing a noble knight determined to prove himself the living ideal of honor, then a good villain would be one that puts up a facade of honor, while acting shady and dishonorably taking the party down. This method can help to generate some interesting NPCs as you try to think in opposition of your party. Of course, it’s all in good fun. No story is complete without a good dose of conflict.
Using these tips you may find your Tephra games are more enjoyable. Go ahead and try experimenting with accents, speech patterns, and word choice. If you have a favorite NPC or two that you have used or seen used in your games, feel free to share them with us down below. I would love to see what you can come up with.
Specialty Gear and Other Rewards February 24, 2016 19:52 3 Comments
Let’s face it, adventuring doesn’t always pay the bills. An adventures are constantly on the move, and that can make it difficult to hold down a steady job. Because of this looting often becomes their primary source of income. Adventurers love loot, especially if it’s shiny and worth a fortune. Today, we’ll look at some some fun options you can use to add variety to your party rewards.
Money and Valuables
Small statues, gemstones, and the enemies’ wallets are great ways to keep your players funded for their heroic rampage. However, restricting your players’ income can force your players to get creative with how they spend the scarce resources they have. With limited funds a party must choose how they use what they have and suffer the consequences of their decisions. Your other option is to create moments and reasons for the players to spend more of their rewards than they had planned to. These options can be combined as well, making funds scarce and quickly consumed could open interesting story elements and change the way the players see the world. Additionally, the second option can create interesting side-stories depending on how you go about removing their excess funds. You can impose charges on their necessities, have a thief sneak in and steal as much as they can, or even run the risk of your players losing their funds if they are not holding onto them tight.
Rewarding players with a new story or title can be fun and they provide an immediate benefit. They’re like background stories, but their effects are entirely up to you, the narrator. They can be used to track a character’s influence in a town, their reputation with a specific organization, or provide a specific bonus. When making up your own stories, consider what kind of effect they’ll have on your saga. Another option is to create a series of stories that combine to create increasingly powerful effects.
The most exciting reward players can receive is special gear that cannot be obtained through normal methods. They provide you have the opportunity to come up with truly fantastic tools and weapons that open up new options for players to use on and off the battlefield. Rewards like this should only be used on rare occasions in order to preserve the excitement players experience when they find one. Take into consideration how each of your players likes to play, and try to shape your gear rewards around that. Some items might serve as temptation for your party to take risks they wouldn’t normally take. You can also use this kind of reward to spur an entire adventure arc in your saga. As for the items themselves, you can create anything you want. Do you want to create an item that allows a player to apply weapon augments to their unarmed attacks? How about a suit of armor that allows the wearer to fly? This can also be an opportunity to showcase some interesting gadgets. An investigative character may favor a listening device, allowing them to eavesdrop from great distances. Another interesting item you could offer is a bag of chemical pills that change color depending on the kind of liquid they are dropped in, which may reveal whether a drink is poisoned or medicinal. The possibilities are endless, and anything you think of could prove a deserving reward.
What kinds of fun rewards have you received in your Tephra adventures? Do you have an idea for some interesting loot to tempt the party with? Comment below and share your ideas!
Prosthetics by the Number: Crafting by the Score February 11, 2016 09:05 2 Comments
What could be more fun than lopping off an arm or two and building a new pair of mechanical arms that are better than the old? That’s why prosthetics is one of my favorite crafts. There are so many builds that can be improved with prosthetics, and the options are diverse.
You’ll first decide what material to use when you fashion your prosthetics. Metal is common, but it’s not the only choice. You can have wooden prosthetics for the more nature-conscious characters, or you can have organic prosthetics for those that don’t want their old limb to go to waste. Each of these materials has its advantages as well as its drawbacks.
- Metal: Metal prosthetics offer three augment slots, plus the two from beta prosthetics. However, any electrical attack is immediately more powerful when used against a character with limbs made out of metal. In addition, metal-dissolving acids will damage the limb.
- Wood: Wood prosthetics have one fewer augment slot in total, so you start with two and end up with a total of four with beta. These limbs are not vulnerable to metal-melting acids or electrical attacks, but fire is certainly more of a concern than before.
- Organic: Organic prosthetics are made out of flesh, either your own or a “donor” for those that like to trade up. They have the fewest augment slots, starting with one and ending up with three in beta. Organic prosthetics do gain a bonus to being disguised, making it harder to pick out an organic prosthetic when using the Disguised augment. In addition, the organic limb does not have any special weaknesses that differ from your own, so you don’t have to fear electricity or fire any more than normal. A beta organic prosthetic can be rather terrifying once people see you whipping a rifle out of your arm or releasing fire exhausts from your natural-looking leg.
You may find it tough to choose how many prosthetic limbs to craft for yourself. To start, you can only replace your arms, hands, and legs. Additional specialties allow you to craft for other called shot locations, and even add extra limbs, but be careful! Each prosthetic limb will reduce your maximum wounds by one point. Want an arm with a mounted rocket-launcher and the other with a mounted shield? That’s two wounds gone, but those arms sound awesome!
The final step is choosing which augments go on which of your new limbs. Some can be placed on any limb you make, while others are more specific. For example: Weapon Mount can be placed on as many prosthetics as you have, even your eye! So if you want to hide firearms throughout your body, you now know the trick. Extreme Speed, however, is only available for legs. Choose your augments according to how you want your character to work. Do you want your character to have an arm that contains a Furnace that fuels the Flame Pores in the hand? Want the other arm to have a Freezer with Freezing Pores in that hand? Maybe you prefer the subtle approach and want a hidden weapon on every single prosthetic. The choice is yours to make.
Leave us a comment below with your favorite prosthetic design, or share your ideas on what you’d like to see prosthetics do in future expansions!
A Hundred and One Uses For Squibs February 4, 2016 21:18 4 Comments
What could be more fun that blowing stuff up, especially when it isn’t yours! Villains and construction workers will both attest that there’s a special kind of rush that comes from having your finger on the button that triggers the big kaboom! The standard crafts from the Playing Guide are good for blowing up everything in an area, but when a situation calls for a controlled explosion, squibs are the best tools for the job. Don’t have time to fool around with locked doors? An expertly placed squib or two can take down the door without bringing down the rest of the wall with it.
Squibs have one feature that other explosives don’t, and that is versatility. Standard explosives are good for taking out a crowd, and that’s all well and good, but squibs bring a touch of finesse to the typically messy practice of combustion. The explosion from a squib is contained to a five-foot by five-foot area, and can focus their destruction to a single spot. This focused damage allows for tactical application of your dangerous explosive.
Let’s look at the options that squibs provide. Within the Explosives expanded crafting guide, there are more augments made available for your standard explosives as well as squibs. They can be made to explode silently and invisibly, to run and jump at their target, or even send their target flying. There are many combinations, that can be useful in any number of scenarios.Here’s a few of my favorite combinations:
- The Bad Penny: (Ethereal Blast, Muted, Disguised) These small and shiny squibs are designed for the subtle approach to blowing things up. These can be handed off, placed in pockets, or left lying around, waiting for someone to pick it up.
- Knock-Knock: (Demolishing, Collision-Detonated, Far-lobbing) These handy tools of the trade are your ticket into any door that dares stand in your way. Remember, if one doesn’t do the job, ten might. This item is also handy for support beams, stubborn windows, and trap doors.
- Handful of Hornets: (Damaging, Impact, Shrapnel) Having trouble getting troublemakers to leave you be? Worry no more! The tiny shards of metal that explode from these little pellets will make it clear that you’re not to be bothered. While the rabble is busy bleeding, crying, and swearing, you’re free to go about your day unperturbed.
- Splitting Headache: (Banshee, Concussive, Flash) If you’re more interested in disorienting rather than harming your foes, this squib is exactly what you need! Leave your opponents deaf, dizzy, and blind while you take a few cheap shots or make a break for it. Useful for bandits, ruffians, politicians, neighbors, and even worrisome animals.
- The Vandal: (Paint Splatter, Ruinous, Sundering) It’s not unusual for explosives to make a mess, but the Vandal is designed to make a disaster in a very specific area.. Not only does it break everything in sight, it leaves a mess of paint to boot! People might judge you and wonder why you would ever want to do such a thing, but if they care about the condition of their outfit, they’ll keep their big mouths shut.
Word on the Grapevine January 27, 2016 08:27 6 Comments
One of my favorite narrator’s tools is rumors. Rumors are like teaser trailers for movies; they offer a peek without really telling you anything. As a narrator, I enjoy throwing a few of these at my party and seeing what strikes their interest. From that reaction I can take a little time and write out a small sidebar adventure to go along with my campaign. It’s really fun to see which of those on-the-spot blurbs became the most memorable.
Coming up with rumors is really the fun part. This can be done by reading headlines in the newspaper for inspiration, vaguely hinting at a major plot point in your story, or even dropping clues that an old enemy is still lurking about. If it seems interesting to you, it’ll most likely seem interesting to the party. Here are some of my favorite ideas I’ve used and reused:
- “Word is the circus is in town. I’d stay away if I were you. What you see is a distraction from what you don’t.”
- “Someone saw some madman running through the alleys last night. He was wearin’ one of the guard uniforms. Makes you think, what if he’s still hiding in plain sight?”
- “Welcome to [town name], you’re new? I know a new face when I sees one. Come in, join the festivities-- *in a hushed voice* Don’t draw any attention. They are watching you. Just play along and you’ll be just fine. Meet me at the warehouse by the [dock/stables/factories] at midnight. *resuming the loud, boisterous voice* Do enjoy yourselfs now. Can’t have too many smiling faces.”
- “There were strange sounds coming out of that house again. The scratching and clawing, the pounding, and the screeching of metal. No one goes close to it. It’s supposed to be empty.”
- “You heard about the mayor’s son? Nasty child, him. Hardly seen much of him any more. Usually at night, when he’s skulking around being suspicious. Most think he’s off dealing with them drug lords. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s just off his knocker. Might even kill his own mum so HE can be mayor. Such a shame.”
The sources for delivering your rumors can vary. It can be someone talking in a low voice in the corner of a pub, an enthusiastic greeter giving the party a warm welcome to the town, or it can even be a poster or flyer either on a wall or blown into a character’s face by the wind. The source will determine how the rumor is perceived and responded to. Did a madman shout it from the rooftops? Maybe he’s just shouting nonsense, or maybe he’s telling the truth. The rumors don’t even have to be true. You could lead the party on a snipe hunt as a way of showing off the town, or driving the plot by having them poke around the place and getting into trouble. Rumors should add flair to your adventure, give the environment a sense of suspicion, and set the stage for the players to interact with.
As fun as rumors are, they should be used responsibly. Too much can distract from the story and leave the party confused, or railroad so far away from your main plot that you now have to find a way to get everyone back on track. A handful of rumors can be enough to keep the party interested when there’s a lull in the adventure. More than that and you run the risk of creating a conspiracy, and those last forever.
Please, comment below with any rumors you have used, or are thinking of using. Maybe share those fun moments when a tangent adventure became a saga highlight. If you have any questions about creating rumors, ask away.
Where Does the Story Begin? January 20, 2016 20:32 2 Comments
When I'm working on a new saga or adventure, the titular question of "Where does my story begin?" is often the first and last thing I consider. It can often be a difficult question to answer, because a story can have any number of beginnings.
When it comes to entertaining your players, it helps to know what they are looking for in a saga. You can take what you know and give it to them, or use it against them. I like to take a little inspiration from my players, using the little details they provide and seeing how far I can run with it. The biggest hurdle can be the first session. Whether you start in a tavern, on board a train, or waking up in the desert without any provisions or recent memory, the first session shapes the tone of your adventure. When in doubt, you can always rely on the tried and true pub, where adventures are prone to start.
The next aspect of the story you might consider is background. How much of the background do you reveal to your players? Give them too little information and they may not take interest, or they may not make connections you are trying to lead them to. Give them too much and they may find the story to lose a bit of the mystery it had before. You also have to think about how complex and involved you want your background to be. A saga that emphasizes political games and nobility will most often have some complicated back story that can only be handed out in bite-size pieces. When you get a feel for your players’ personalities and strengths, you can more easily gauge whether they might make good use of a piece of information.
Now, everything I’ve talked about so far is about the start of the game, or the start of the written story. However, that does not mark the beginning. When I look back at my favorite campaigns that I played in, I don’t often begin at the first session. Sometimes the story really begins halfway through, when the party has figured each other out and the narrator has dropped the first bombshell event. That makes the previous half of the campaign part of the back story. Whether this was intentional or not I may never know, but it does bring an important note to mind. When you are writing out your campaign, I find it’s best to create an outline of major plot points. With each of those points written out, you can look at the story you want to tell and determine where it will actually begin. It’s good to aim for an intended beginning rather than letting one happen naturally. You may open up in the tavern, and up until the party escapes the exploding mansion, you may realize that what happened in between was the prelude to the story.
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