When fights break out at the game table

You may have thought (like I did) that my last article was the final volume in my series on online gaming.  Clearly, you and I were both wrong, for it appears that this comment of mine stirred some questions:

I’ve found it hard for players and GMs to fight fairly online.  I’m not sure what it is about the medium, but it tends to go poorly. … Reconciliation — fighting well — makes a game group better, but it’s hard work.  And if we want our groups to last, we need to be able to fight well.

In response to this sentiment, a thoughtful reader asked some challenging questions that made me think more deeply about this idea.  It will take at least two articles to respond, so I’ll only deal with his first question today: “In what circumstance would players actually fight at the gaming table?”  I can identify four types of fights that can (and frequently do) emerge at the gaming table.  If you haven’t seen these before, I can almost guarantee you will: Continue reading

Should you game online or in person?

All good things come to an end.  Campaigns end.  Gaming groups disband.  Even online gaming groups come to a close.  After two and a half years of GMing my online 4e group, our campaign ended.  We disbanded for several reasons.

First, the story had come to a close.  It had many twists and turns.  It had a deeper and more complicated mythology than any campaign should have.  But most importantly, the characters reached a point of resolution and redemption.  And that really was the goal of our story.

Second but more primarily, we disbanded the group because online GMing was beginning to wear on me.  While online GMing has its pros, it also has its cons.  I’m not referring to limitations that can be overcome or the simple temptations that come with the territory.  I’m talking about unavoidable characteristics of online GMing from which I needed a break.  I could handle it for two and a half years, but then I needed a hiatus for these reasons.  I needed to bring my game back home. Continue reading

The Greatest Temptation Online GMs Face

Beware, Online GM!  Temptation is headed your way!  That’s right, the quintessential GM temptation — the grand Temptor itself!  The temptation to railroad your players.

Surely a GM like yourself wouldn’t be tempted to do such a thing!  Despite our hardy stock and distinguished retinue around here, even the most skilled GMs will be tempted to railroad when GMing online.  But, why would the temptation be greater online, you ask?  I have been tempted and even succumbed to railroading when GMing online, because of these three factors: Continue reading

How to beat Gary Gygax

This post will likely be the first of a few post-mortem reflections on T1: The Village of Hommlet, as my local gaming group just completed our tenth and final session in this classic Gygax module.

As this is my first AD&D adventure, I’m struck by a number of things:

  1. I love AD&D.  Yes, it’s clunky fairly often.  Yes, we have to flip through the books to find rules fairly consistently.  And, yes, more modern systems tend to make a little more sense.  But you simply can’t say that AD&D is not fun, challenging, and exciting.
  2. AD&D really is advanced.  For less seasoned gamers, who had not already played RPGs, I could see this game being the death knell for their roleplaying.  There’s a bit of a learning curve here.
  3. The nostalgia is real.  You really do get a taste of a different era and a different kind of gaming when you go back and play AD&D.But my fourth observation is where I’d like to dwell in this post:
  4. To overcome this module, you really have to beat Gary Gygax.  You’re not simply solving a puzzle or overcoming a challenge.  You have to figure out Gygax’s gameplan, metagame a bit, and beat him!
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The Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising

And to think, I would’ve known this already if I’d thought back to that modern classic gaming film, The Gamers 2: Dorkness RisingHaven’t seen it?  Read on…

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How to improve your online RPG sessions

As I have previously stated, there are many pros to online GMing.  But as some of you have pointed out, there are limitations as well.  I don’t call them “cons” for two reasons: (1) limitations can be overcome with some compensation, while (2) true cons are inherent and unavoidable.  In today’s article, I want to discuss the limitations placed upon communication when GMing online.

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How to not ruin your RPG session

You know what ruins an RPG session?  When the rulebooks get opened up.  You know what ruins it the most?  When the GM is the one opening the book.

While my point could be applied to “rules lawyering,” I’m actually hitting at a more present problem at my gaming table: lack of familiarity with core rules.  As you know, I’ve embarked on a quest to play through many of the classic 1st Edition AD&D modules.  We have one session remaining in T1: The Village of Hommlet by Gary Gygax.  That means after a solid ten sessions, we’re still having to look at rules.  Why is that?

Of course, there is the charge that 1st Edition is too complicated, contradictory, and clunky.  Granted, it is complicated.  There are moments of fuzziness to the point of possible contradiction.  But there’s a charm and personality about the system that helps me to overlook all that.  I’m enamored by the tone of the game.

Beyond the quirks of 1st Ed. AD&D, I think that there are some rules that are simply hard to remember when you first begin playing any game.  They’re not on the GM screen–they’re not readily available–nobody remembers!  And, as a result, you can find yourself digging through your books at the gaming table more than is necessary.

So here’s my solution!

Photo by Dean Hochman

Photo by Dean Hochman

Post-it notes!  That’s right.  It’s simple, it’s easy, find those finicky rules quickly if they’re absolutely needed at the table.  The problem is less the books and more the fifteen minutes finding the rules.

So grab a pack of post-its, whatever RPG book you’re learning right now, and let’s mark our pages together.  Ready?  Here are the top pages that you need to mark right now:

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Should you play RPGs online?

A month or so ago, I had a very good question from @yukitsuki7 on Twitter:

What are your experiences with [online gaming]? What are the common obstacles for online groups?

It’s a very good question, one that I intend to address on my infrequent podcast.  That said, a couple years back I addressed this over on The Mad Adventurers Society, a wonderful gaming site that will soon be coming to a close.  In response to her question, I thought I’d go back, revisit, and revise that series of articles on online GMing.  This is my first attempt to do so.

As many of you know, I started gaming in the summer of 2011 with D&D 4e.  Within months, I was running a table for D&D Encounters at my FLGS.  But I found myself wanting more very quickly.  I wanted a consistent, weekly game wherein I could explore new places and new stories.  Stories created by myself and other players!  I wanted something personal and open, not the railroaded ten-week stints that were provided for D&D Encounters.

No pants required.

But who in the world can actually pull such a thing off, especially every week?  I learned very quickly who could: the online gamer.  Online gaming is a potentially tricky task, but one that I found rewarding and successful.  My gaming group played weekly for two and a half years (of course, we took some weeks off here and there).  And in the end, we stopped playing because the story ended.  So in this, the first of five articles, I aim to share why you should consider being an online roleplayer.  So let us begin with the many benefits of online gaming…

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