Common Dungeon Master Mistakes.

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So 35 years of Game Mastering has taught me many things. The most prominent lessons learned over that time (and one that definitely has spanned that entire time frame) are all the mistakes I have made as I honed my craft. Many conversations with other Game Masters has enlightened me to the fact that many (if not all) of us have made many of the same common mistakes, and that almost all of us did not know any better when we first began. Now I know that there are other posts or blogs out there, discussing this, but I wanted to chime in and give my 2 cents on the topic, mostly because I get asked to give advice regarding many of these points frequently. These are not in any particular order, but these are the most common mistakes I see among Game Masters and many of them I have made myself in the past.

Not knowing the game mechanics well enough.

You do not need to know every mechanic (rule), but you should know them well enough to run a basic game. You can “wing” a lot of things at the table (especially if you are experienced) but if you do not know the basic game play mechanics you are going to have a clunky awkward game that will not be enjoyable for the players. Also, typically the players look to you (the Dungeon Master) to know these things and be able to answer their questions. Before and after the game you have your manuals to reference,  but during the game session you want to limit the need to refer to these as much as possible to avoid slowing down the game session, and breaking immersion.

 

Over (or under) preparing.

A very common mistake is made in the amount or preparation a DM does, prior to his game session. It is necessary to prepare your session in advance, so that you are ready to handle whatever the players throw at you, as well as run a smooth and effective game. I have played with many DMs who come to the table ill prepared and just think they can improvise the entire session. While a good and very experienced DM can do this, most will fail and deliver a sub par game. On the flip side over preparing can also have a detriment. If you spend too much effort in trying to plan every little detail, there are some negatives to think about. Firstly players will be players, and much of what you prepare may be completely ignored or circumnavigated by them during play. The more work you put into creating something, the more likely you are to want to force your players to interact with it. While on occasion (where crucial plot lines exist) this may be necessary, a good DM doesn’t force his players to routinely do anything they do not wish to do. Finding a good balance is the key. Another negative is increased possibility of burning out as a DM. If your prep takes up to much of your free time, you run the risk of damaging the fun of running the game for yourself.

I will say that in regards to over preparing, if you are the kind of DM that likes to have EVERY little thing detailed, that’s fine. Just be willing to accept that much of your work may never see the light of day at the gaming table, and do not try to force it upon your players.

 

Not balance your time fairly between your players.

It is common at a gaming table, to have one or more players who take the lead. It is easy to interact with these players, as they are providing you with the most stimuli as a DM. This being said, it is important to engage everyone around the table, and allow them equal time as a player. If the party splits, many DMs focus on those that they feel are “doing the adventure”, and those that seem to be doing something not crucial to the plot can get pushed aside. As a DM you should break up your attentions and distribute them among the players in a fair way. A shy player will not come out of their shell if they are not given an opportunity to do so, and a good player will lose interest if she sits to long with no interaction.

Not knowing when to say yes and no.

So their is a general contention as DMs we are encouraged to say YES to our players. I agree with this (for the most part) but of course their are times when saying NO is necessary. As I mentioned before in a previous post, as a general rule, if a player wants to do something I have three points of criteria I consider.

  1. If I say yes will it alter the adventure in a negative way?
  2. If I say yes will the action give the player an unfair advantage?
  3. If I say yes will it have significant consequences later?

As long as I can answer no to these three criteria, I generally will answer YES to the player. I have played with some players that want to do outlandish or broken things from time to time, or perform actions that are just plain impossible. Even then I usually do not say “NO you can’t do that”, but instead describe what happens when they try. Mostly when you find yourself needing to say NO, it should be in regards to the game mechanics and not the actions of a character. Describing how something fails, is different than telling a player they can not try something in the first place. For example. If a player wants his low strength wizard to try and physically carry a five ton gold statue out of a dungeon, instead of saying NO you can’t do that, say “Ok you try in vain to lift the colossal statue, clearly it is beyond the ability of any man to lift”.

 

forgetting you are there to serve the players.

Some DMs seem to think that the players are their audience. This is not the case. They are part of the storytelling team around the table, and it is the job of the DM to facilitate that story. Good communication with your players outside of the game session is important to ensure everyone is having fun at the table. No matter what adventure you have planned, and no matter how great you think it is, if the subject matter is not something your players will enjoy, then you are missing your mark as the DM. I ask my players things like “What did you like about the last adventure?” or “Was their any part of the last campaign you did not enjoy?” Do not let your desire to tell a specific story, overstep the desires of your players.

 

Failure to know your player base.

I run several different types of games and use several different styles to run games, depending on who is at my gaming table. Some players love completely open world campaigns, others like focused more linear adventures. Some like a balance between the too. It is important to know what your players want, and what is reasonable to expect from them. It is pointless trying to run a structured linear style adventure if your players want something totally sandbox. This does not mean you can not try, but you are going to have to be ready to improvise and go out of the lines a lot. I know most DM’s have a preference to how they run their games (as do I). Some will even say derogatory things about a style that differs from their preference. I say the correct method is the method that suits both the DM AND the players at the table. There is no right or wrong as long as all agree to it.

It is also important to know the experience level of your players, and not present them with adventures that are either too basic or too advanced for them. Ensuring the adventure is inline with their play level is important if all are to have the most fun at the table.

Failure to be consistent.

One thing that almost all players universally dislike is a DM who changes his rulings session to session and lacks consistency. The players need to trust the DM, so it is important that they learn what to expect from you. If you are inconsistent, it makes it hard for them to trust, and as such will make your life much harder.

 

Allowing the rules to stifle creativity.

As I have said many times, the “rules” of a role playing game should be referred to as mechanics and not rules. Rule implies it is to be obeyed and followed, where as in role playing games they are their to help with the story and game play and provide a mechanics system to determine outcome and set perimeters. never be afraid to change a rule, BUT always make sure your players know about it, and agree with it. If a rule in anyway spoils the fun for those at the table, change it or throw it out.

 

Playing Favorites.

This one is simple. DO NOT PLAY FAVORITES! as a DM you are expected to be impartial, and not play favorites. It does not matter if one of the players is your best friend, brother, child or significant other, you must remain fair and impartial to all players at your table. many a gaming group has broken apart due to a DM playing favorites!

 

Trying to win the game.

This seems like it should be a no brainier, but with all the forums and groups I am active with I still see DMs bragging about defeating or killing their players. As a DM you can kill your players characters at any moment, so what accomplishment is their in doing so? How you win the game as a DM is having your players “LOVE” playing with you. Your job is not and never has been to defeat your player base.

 

This is by no means a concise list of mistakes, it is however a start and something a new DM or GM could do well to understand prior to running their game sessions. Happy Gaming.

Gorebad.

 

 

 

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Creating Better NPC’s

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So often on the show I Dungeon Master for (Howreroll), People comment on the Non Player Characters or NPC’s that I create and introduce. I get asked questions about why they feel so “Real” or what is my process for making great NPC’s. Well this article is going to cover just that.

So first lets take a look at the potential role of an NPC. while the term means NON player character, it is important to understand that it is STILL a character, but one that is going to be played by the Dungeon Master, rather than a player. The NPC may have a variety of jobs, from being a quest giver, a protagonist, an allies or something else. We must first realize the importance of the role and the level of interaction the NPC is going to be expected to achieve, as this will define the level of depth that is required in creating him.

If the NPC is a simple distraction, designed to be a one of and short encounter, then you may not need as much depth and background for him than one that is going to be a reoccurring character. That being said, one thing I have learned over decades of play is that just because you envision your NPC as being nothing more than a passing encounter, it does not mean you players will. Due to this I tend to always create a level of depth with each and every NPC I create, because I just do not know how the players are going to choose to interact with him.

So where do we begin.

Well firstly I begin much like anyone would, creating a Player Character. I decide on Race, sex, character class (if they have one) or give them a job or roll in society if it is applicable. This all goes without saying, but then I sit down and start to make notes. I decide what I want this NPC to be to the Player Characters. And how I expect him to interact. I also determine the desired tone of the encounter, and how I expect him to be perceived. You will notice I used worlds like desired and expect. Well that is because no matter what I (the Dungeon Master) decide, the players may think and act differently than I expect.

At the start of creating my “Wrath of The Fallen” campaign, I had a dilemma on how to bring a group of selfish and dubious characters together. Part of achieving this was to introduce an NPC, that would help facilitate the creation of a bond within the group. I am going to use this NPC as my example herein.

What Role do I want this NPC to fill? Well as I mentioned I need to bring a group of Player Characters together and give them a reason to learn to trust one another (at least to some degree) and begin to form a bond. This being the task my NPC is going to be a facilitator. He is going to introduce the idea of trust to the Players, and provide them an environment to cooperate.

So I begin with a few basic facts.

The character is going to be on a tropical Island. The Players are going to find themselves washed ashore on this island after a ship wreck. I want him to feel native to the area, yet not be a native of this particular island, so I decide he will be from another island not to far away. The island our players will find themselves upon is inhabited by a tribe of Cannibals, but he is not one of them.

In my head I begin by trying to visualize an appearance for my new NPC. I decide as he is from a tropical climate he is to have tanned skin. I choose to go with a Human male for race and sex, and thinking that his life would be one of hunting, fishing and gathering (his role in his tribe), and thus he would probably be fit and athletic. I decide he will be bald, and probably has some kind of tribal markings. Maybe he is an experienced tracker and hunter. Experience suggests he has been performing this role for a while, so I decide he should have a scar or two on his body to suggest this. Maybe the scars were attained from retaliating creatures he had hunted, when he allowed his guard to slip and paid the price. I imagine his tribe are slightly shorter than the typical Human on the mainland so He is going to be about five foot seven (tall for his tribe).

How I have an image of my NPC, I decide upon a name. I shall call him Awadie.

Now what is Awadies story.

Awadie (as we already decided) comes from a near by Island. maybe a few miles away from the island we will be using as a setting for the start of the campaign. On his island Awadie belonged to a small native tribe, that fished as a primary source of food, but also hunted the creatures on the island. Being that it is a smallish island, they only killed a few animals to compliment their seafood diet, and even then probably used every piece of the animal so as not to waste anything. This idea means Awadie has a level of respect for nature. Awadie was experienced but capable so lets say he is thirty three years of age.

Now the Cannibals on our Campaign island are savage and probably had a disregard for nature. They have strip mined many of their natural resources, so began to look for other food sources. This lead to them attacking other tribes on nearby islands, and taking them back to be eaten! Awadie and some of his tribe were victims of one of these raids, so this explains how Awadie will come to be on the island when our Players arrive.

Now I need to explain and develop Awadies current personality and emotional state, as well as his motivations and goals for when the players encounter him.

Obviously Awadie can not have been eaten, so I decide due to a fortuitous situation, Awadie was able to escape his captors. I want Awadie to be fearful of the Cannibals, so I decide before he escaped, he was subjected to the horror of watching friends and family being boiled alive and eaten by his captors.  Awadie was pursued by the Cannibals but being a skilled tracker and hunter, he was able to evade them. Due to the island being small, evading them long term would be a problem, so eventually (as Awadie ran on one occasion from some pursuers),  He dove from a cliff and into rock filled waters bellow. His would be captors assumed he had met his demise. Now Awadie would look for a way to get off the island, but he is terrified of the Cannibals. Not because he is a coward, but because of the horrors he associates with them, and the fact he has been hunted pray for a good while.

With these things being the case, he would clearly be a little skeptical  of strangers and fearful of being discovered by the island natives. I want Awadie to know the island well as he will become kind of a guide for the players so I decide he has been here many months. He has been hiding in a small cave during the day, far from the Cannibals village, and coming out at night to hunt. Once he learned the typical habits of the natives, he may have gotten a little braver and ventured out carefully sometimes during the day on parts of the island far from the tribe. He also may have begun to fashion a boat in order to escape, and maybe combed beaches for anything that may wash up that he could use.

I intend Awadie to provide the players with an opportunity to escape escape the island, but not until they have had a few experiences that bring them together. Awadies boat will work nicely for this but why wouldn’t Awadie have used it? Well Awadie is driven a little mad with fear, paranoia and loneliness over his many months on the island. He has on occasion thought he is hearing voices. In his primitive and simplistic mind, he may associate that with something spiritual. Tie that to the fact that while Awadie wants to escape the island, he really has no safe place to go, and he begins to fashion an idea that maybe the spirits are trying to tell him something, and that he can only hear them on this island. In his odd way of reasoning, he decides (for mental and spiritual reasons) to reside himself to staying on the island.

Now enter the players.

So when they meet Awadie he will be cautious and wary, but at the same time once he sees the players are not a direct threat to him, he may welcome some people who are not the Cannibals. He will understand their desire to get off the island, and while he no longer wishes to escape himself he will be sympathetic of their plight. With this being the case he will aid the players, but with some reservation and skepticism.

He will be suspicious at first, but eager for company he will probably open up to them fairly quickly, out of a desire fro company. kind of like a dog that has been cooped up all day and a stranger comes and lets it out.

Going through this process I use circumstance to help shape Awadies personality, and situation to help dictate his actions.

One thing I always do Is ask myself a lot of WHYs. Why is the NPC suspicious? WHY is he able to survive on an island with Cannibals? WHY is he so fearful of the natives? WHY is he willing to help? I try not to decide on anything without a why to back it up. Doing this not only gives justification but adds depth.

If you say the NPC has a scar down his left cheek, you should ask why he has it and how it got there. Do not take it for granted because the odds are a player will ask about it, and you want to have a good answer. If you decide a particular NPC is going to be a giggling idiot, then WHY does he act that way? What caused him to become so inflicted?

It can be important and helpful to develop your NPC’s relationships. Is he a brother, son, father, grandfather etc. What does he do for fun? What kinds of things irritate him? Does he have a weakness for certain things or types of people? Of course you do not need to come up with every single nuance for your NPC, but some basic persona development is most definitely needed to bring him to life.

Some of my NPC’s that were initially intended to be minor plot characters were so embraced by the players and in some cases the viewers of the show, I found myself creating much richer and fuller back stores for them. It is true that you do not necessarily need to a full blown novel of a  back story for each and every NPC you create, but you should always have reasons that justify there demeanor, actions, behavior, emotions and outlook on life. Allowing yourself to develop that extra Depth is what creates an NPC that your players (and in our case an audience) can relate too. I have said it before, part of selling your world to your players is to maintain one foot in reality so that there is something relate able. It is also true with your NPC’s. If your players have no way to relate to them, then it is less likely they will bother to interact with them in the way you desire.

One final thing to mention is be willing to allow your NPC’s to change. If the players do things that in reality would and should change the NPC’s outlook then allow it to happen. Make him adaptable. It is way more believable than setting your NPC in stone, and refusing to allow him to grow. For a long term NPC, this is essential if you really want your players to embrace him as a believable entity in their lives.

Now go and make some new imaginary friends =)

Happy gaming……..

 

How to DM for young Players.

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Dungeons and Dragons is a game that stretches the imagination. It can provide us with endless hours of fun and adventure, as well as social interaction, lessons about morality, and even help us practice math. Older players take all this in their stride, but for much younger players their is additional value to be found other than just fun. Dungeons and Dragons is tailored for players aged twelve and up, but I often get asked questions like “how can I run games for my younger children, aged six, eight and ten?” Today’s topic is going to address this question, and give some insight into how to run games for those below their teenage years.

Know your players (kids).

First off, you should know what your kids are into. What excites them and what hold their interest. Your game should incorporate elements from these interest. No I am not saying that they should be fighting, Giant transforming aircraft, or adolescent mutated aquatic animals. Or spending thirty minutes shopping for their characters next outfit, but the game should encompass elements of these interests.  Holding the interest of young children is not an easy thing, and especially for extended periods, so ensuring that your game has multiple elements of interest is vital. Remember that you are running a game for them, not you.

Have an age appropriate theme.

Now I am not going to even try to tell you how to raise your kids! but you know what is appropriate for younger children and what is not. Playing a bunch of evil doers may be fun for mature adults but it probably does not offer the best moral learning experience for a bunch of pre-teens. Make sure that you create and design adventures that will have the opportunity to teach your kids good morality and take advantage of the fact that Dungeons and Dragons can be a great learning tool for children. Also there are plenty of adventure options that do not constantly involve killing. You can offer other ways to defeat the villain rather than killing him if you do not want your children enacting that kind of thing, or you can simply keep combat PG rated and dumb down the prescriptive aspect combat and talk only about hit points and damage points as numbers. I STRONGLY advise that you impose an alignment restriction of an all GOOD party when dealing with younger players. It is easier to have them learn morally enhancing lessons if they have no conflict with making the goodly choices.

Short and Sweet.

The average attention span for children aged 1 to 6 is approximately three to five minutes per year of age, and from seven to twelve it is five minutes per year. This means that a six year old’s average attention span is between eighteen and thirty minutes, where as a ten year old is between thirty eight and fifty minutes. If you expect to hold your kids interest for longer than that, it has to be not only fun, but also very engaging. Either way I recommend keeping game sessions short, with a maximum session length of ninety minutes. Leave them wanting more, as apposed to letting them burn out on a session. It is also important to keep every player engaged and discourage the party splitting up if at all possible. If a child sits with nothing to do for five minutes chances are you will lose his interest. Also make sure to take a few short breaks between play to allow the kids to talk and be excited about what they are doing. Get a snack and a drink for them, take a bathroom break and then pick the game back up.

Choices Choices.

Another important part of running games for the younger players it to constantly offer them choices. Not only is this good for helping develop their powers of reasoning, but it keep them engaged. This being said, keep the choices simple and not to complicated. If you want to incorporate some puzzles to solve, that again can be a good learning opportunity, but it should be easy for them to solve. If they sit stumped for more than a couple of minutes you run a high risk of losing their interest. Children typically do not have the patience to work long on a puzzle, and will become frustrated easily if they feel it is beyond their ability to solve. Giving the kids clear moralistic choices to make and choices that yield positive and not so positive consequences is also a valuable lesson that Dungeons and Dragons has the power to teach.

Keep it Simple.

Try to keep the game mechanics side as simple as you can. Encourage them to calculate their own math for to hit and damage and skill checks etc, but do not overload them with complex mechanics. This is not typically fun for most kids, so the less complex the rules are, the better. Keep the adventures simple too. Avoid going off into plots of political intrigue or complex ed who done it themed stories, as again these offer potential avenues of frustration and the potential to lose the players interest.

Fairs Fair.

Another thing where children are concerned is the word “fair”. Or more often the phrase “that’s not fair!” Ensuring that each player feels they are being treated fairly is very important, so I suggest allowing the dice rolls to make many of the decisions for you. With adults, yes its likely that an intelligent monster will attack a healer or a weak caster first, and adults understand and accept this, however a younger player may feel like he is being victimized so by rolling the dice openly and allowing the players too see the roll and know that it was generated by chance is a great way to avoid them feeling picked on. When it comes to character creation for kids you should make sure the characters are all equally balanced and no one has any obvious advantages over the others. Often a points buy system works best for kids, and pre-generating the characters for younger players is never a bad idea. Lastly be sure to give every player the chance to be the hero. Try to give each player a moment of spotlight when they get to shine, and make a big deal about it. Encourage the other players to congratulate the success of their fellow player. This really helps pump up the confidence of the younger players and they will talk about it for ages. It creates a lasting memory.

Praise often Reward frequently.

Children love praise and rewards. When they do something good, make a big deal out of it. Let them know they did good and pump them up in a positive way. Also I find that awarding them Experience points as they go, is a great incentive and helps hold their interests longer. Make sure that they get loot frequently, and ensure that their characters are constantly progressing. A session where a young player feels like he or she did not accomplish anything should be avoided. Even if its just one hundred gold pieces, they should feel that they gained something tangible from the session.

Minis Matter.

If you really want to engage your kids when playing Dungeons and Dragons, nothing does that better than Floor tiles and miniatures. With adults I often do not use miniatures and we use a more narrative approach. With younger players I always do. They are way more excited and pulled into the game when they can visualize things. Also, lets face it, kids love to play with action figures and dolls, so they love playing with miniatures. It also helps them clearly visualize where their characters are and eliminates much of the need for in depth and (to children) boring descriptions.

A case of the giggles.

Some times children just get silly. They find something funny and lose focus. They break out into a fit of giggles or get a case of the silly’s. This is OK and it happens with children. The first thing to remind yourself is that if they are laughing, they are having fun. Secondly remember who you are dealing with. When one child gets a fit of the giggles the odds are they all will. Laughter is infectious. I have heard several times how game play with children comes to a grinding halt through these incidences. When it happens it is time to take a break. A snack and a drink and a few minutes from the gaming table can do wonders for settling the children down. IF it does not, well it is probably time to end the session at that time. One thing you should never do is get frustrated when it happens. This is like saying “Stop having fun”. If the children are not allowed to express themselves and laugh, they will stop having fun, and you will lose their interest.

Getting feedback.

One of the best ways to know what your young players enjoy is to ask them. At the end of the session it is a good idea ( to help future sessions) as well as a fun after activity to ask them what parts they enjoyed the most. Certainly if you pay attention to their enthusiastic chit chat after the game, you can get a feel for this, but nothing is better than just asking them. Go around the table and ask each player what their favorite moment was. This will give you good insight into what that child considers to be fun. You can then ensure to add more of those elements in the future. I like to make it its own separate activity, by associating it with something. Milk and cookies work well. At the end of the game, we get milk and cookies, sit back down and then go over their favorite moments. Not only does this help to ignite their enthusiasm to play again, but it is a good way to “wind them down” if they have become excited. Of course, I suggest you do this with all player groups, both child and adult. Although you may not necessarily pull out the milk and cookies for the latter..

The payoff.

One of the greatest things you will gain from playing these games with younger players is not only the quality bonding time, but you will create some wonderful memories for you to share as they grow older. The ability to look back and fondly remember “those days around the gaming table” is a valuable gift that the children will carry with them.

Finally here is a great link to something you may find useful. Monster Slayers is a free pdf game specifically designed for younger players. It has simplified rules and an easy to follow system that is great for six to twelve year old’s.

If you have any questions or need more specific advice, do not be afraid to hit me up under the Ask Gorebad  section of this site.

Happy Gaming…………

Home Brewing and House Rules.

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One of the great aspects of any Role Playing Game System is that while the designers go to great lengths to create a wealth of material and game mechanics for us to use, none of it is set in stone. The forum posts I see where some Dungeon Master complains about this rule or that rule make me cringe, and the battle over which edition is best is just as agitating.

Before I go any further I want to make a point. While the mechanics are called “RULES” this term should be taken lightly and with a huge pinch of salt. I prefer not to even call them rules. The term “rule” implies that it is set in stone and must be followed or obeyed. This is far from the truth with any Role Playing Game system. Instead think of them as nothing more than game mechanics that are at your disposal to help facilitate the running of the game, and the telling of the story. Once you do this, you can see more clearly that any of these mechanics are open to change or modification by you the Game Master.

In truth any Game Master (with experience) worth his salt will have altered and modified the game mechanics to suit his own brand of story telling or game in some way. This article is going to address this and both give some advice and make some observations.

Each Game Master will (over time) develop his own style. This style will reflect how he runs the game, and the way in which he tells the story. The Game system that you use is the frame work on which your story will be built, and the mechanics are the tools you will use to create the outcome of events. This article applies to any Role Playing Game but for the sake of simplicity I will relate it to Dungeons and Dragons.

So lets look at Dungeons and Dragons as a game. It first come to light in January 1974 with a three booklet set. in 1977 it was divided into Basic and Advanced rules sets. In 1989 the second edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons was released, and brought with it many more options for players. In 2000 we saw the third edition come to light (under the new ownership of Wizards of the Coast), and shortly after (in 2003) was the revised three point five edition. Third edition changed much of the mechanical system that had for the most part remained fairly similar for the past twenty plus years. The year 2007 brought us fourth edition and almost simultaneously pathfinder (by Paizo publishing) which was a revised three point five rules set. Then the current release of fifth edition hit the shelves in 2014. Over the span of the games history it has gone through many changes. The current edition is a far distant cousin of the original game concept, and for those of us that have played through every edition that has ever existed, we can draw vast differences in not only how the game mechanics work, but in the overall feel of the game.

I am often asked “which edition is your favorite?” In truth I can not answer that. I have many fond memories of First edition and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. I have a crazy amount of game hours with many groups of people sunk into running three point five, and I have had fun and new experiences with some younger players with fifth. My favorite edition changes based on who I am running the game for, and what kind of feel I want for the story. You see to me an edition is nothing more than a tool set to tell a story. Whichever edition I have to modify the least to get the feel I want to achieve is the edition I will use. I am not an edition puritan. I hear people give reasons why they prefer fifth edition over three point five, or why pathfinder is superior. Each to their own, but I do not view mechanics the same way as many. I borrow “rules” from various editions and discard others. I change and modify things to suit my style and the situation.

As mentioned in an article you can find here, I run a game differently for a virtual tabletop than I do a physical one. Regardless of who I am running the game for, or what base edition I am using for my tool set, one thing is certain. Its Home brewed.

The term Home Brew is basically the more recent buzzword for what us old guard used to call house rules. That is to say it is our own custom rule set or mechanics that we use for our individual game. To Home Brew with any benefit can only be achieved with some experience behind you. I know some fledgling Dungeon Masters that refer to their Home Brew system and it makes me chuckle a little inside. They barely know the game or have a good grasp or understanding of the mechanics, so to be changing them already is kind of like a new chef trying to restructure a family recipe after one taste. It is not a requirement, or a status symbol to have your own set of Home Brewed mechanics.

Before you begin butchering and modifying years of work, you should truly understand it. Only then can you make changes to it that can infer any benefit. Changing rules or mechanics for the sake of it can only impose a negative result. Each time a Dungeon Master changes and modifies a rule he alters what his players have come to know and expect. If he is going to do this he should be able to explain why he wishes to do so, and convince the players that it is a change for the better. Back in the early editions of Dungeons and Dragons, you gained experience points for gaining gold and treasure. It was originally envisioned to reward the thief class, but it did not differentiate effectively. This was one of the first rules I remember changing. When I found myself limiting treasure, not to be stingy to the party in wealth terms, but because I did not want them gaining to many experience points to fast, I realized I did not care for this rule. I explained my thoughts to my players, and pointed out that if wealth was linked to experience, then every foppish young rich noble would be a level nine fighter. I also told them that I refrained from giving out wealth at times because I did not like the fact that it encouraged players to horde and hold back treasure and caused imbalances in experience. They understood and agreed and so we changed the rules. You see the rules change ultimately offered improvement to our idea of the game that we wanted, and as such was welcomed and mutually embraced by all. I often speak about trust. The players have to be able to trust their Dungeon Master, and if they feel he changes the rules without their knowledge or understanding it damages that trust. Also any change should be mutually applied to both players and Non Player Characters where applicable. IF for any reason this is not the case then the Dungeon Master should be able to explain (with justification) why.

I do not intend to discourage home brewing in anyway, in fact I encourage it, but I urge Dungeon Masters and Players alike to not do so until they have a clear understanding of the system mechanics as is. Sometimes when you alter a rule, you indirectly break others. You should realize the effects your changes will have on all aspects of the game, and not just the individual situation in which you applied them. For example creating and using a critical hit system can seem like a great idea, but how does it work with the improved critical feat, and does it then make that feat over powered? So now do you have to modify that rule? and alter the crit range of certain weapons? also if it is to be a mutually used rule are you prepared to have a goblin lop off the rangers right arm? Often there is more to consider than you may see at face value.

Beginning play with a set of home brew rules, is also easier than altering and changing as a game progresses. If you begin a certain way, its easily accepted but if you change it mid flow, you have to look at who it may hurt or hinder and how will they feel about it. Remembering my golden rule that you (the Dungeon Master) are there for the benefit of the players and not the other way around is paramount. You may not like a rule but do your players feel the same way? You should consider discussing it prior to coming up with changes or implementing anything. Players will be accepting of a rule change that they know is coming but will almost certainly rebel at one that is imposed upon them without prior knowledge. The game after all belongs to everyone at the table, and not just the Dungeon Master.

When you feel the need to alter a rule, firstly you should be able to identify why it needs altering. Knowing the reason then allows you to measure the impact of the rule on the game, and think of ways to better balance this impact. At this point, you should mention your thoughts about why a rule does not seem to work to your players and see if they agree. Once you have an idea for how the change will work you should then discuss it with your players and see how they feel about this solution, or if they have any input on a better way. Once the idea of change is agreed upon, and the method of change accepted, then you can implement it. Doing this will ensure acceptance of the change, and make sure you continue to have trust in your players.

Another observation is that many do not record the changes to a rule or what home brew rules they use. You should. Writing these changes down is important for a few reasons. For one it is good to have for your own records but it is also good to be able to show a player the rule (as written). I typically also write the date that I applied the change. This serves to show players that it has been in practice since that time, and not something I just came up with and threw at them. Writing things down also helps you to commit them to memory.

I have different sets of home brew mechanics. Some rules I use with my very experienced players, that I would not with newer ones. I also have some that I use for younger players (kids) that i do not use with adults. I do tent to let people know however when I am using a particular modification and again I always come prepared to explain why. I remember one case when I mentioned a home brew rule I wanted to use (that i had done so with many other groups) and it was met with resistance. That particular group did not like the idea of the rule, so after we had discussed it and everyone put fourth their thoughts, we collectively modified it. They understood why I had changed the particular rule, but not how I had changed it, so we collaborated to find a solution. By doing this I showed the players that I was fair and that I was there to run the game for their enjoyment. It developed trust. I know several Dungeon Masters that would not have changed the rule and some who would not have even told the players that it had been changed. To me that is the typical “the DM is god” mentality that piss poor Dungeon Masters seem to share.

In closing, I say Brew your proverbial asses off! However only do so where needed, and be sure that your players know about it, understand it and agree with it. No one likes a dictator………….

The Art of Story Telling. Part 1.

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As a Dungeon Master you will wear several hats. You are the referee, adjudicator, administrator and creator, as well as playing the part of a  host of Non Player Characters and monsters. One of the most important however is that of the storyteller. In fact some Role Playing Games even refer to the Games Master position as the storyteller! Being a great story teller has little to do with knowing the rules of the game . It is about understanding how to create and deliver content to your players and bringing your world and each scene to life. In this multi part series we will look at ways to improve your ability to deliver content, and make you a better story teller.

If you have played more than a few games of Dungeons & Dragons with several different groups, then undoubtedly at some point you will have played with that dry monotone Dungeon Master. He may be well versed in the rules of the game, but reads everything as if from a script, and has little inflection in his voice. He may have been a bit stuffy and academic in his approach and as such it is a stretch for you to imagine the world around you. On the other hand you may have also been lucky enough to have played with a vibrant and enthusiastic Dungeon Master, who delivers great descriptive content and knows how to provoke, and spur on your imagination. Some players like a mechanical academic game and may be fine with the first option, but most, especially those that truly love the game and want to throw themselves wholeheartedly into their characters probably will not. As a Dungeon Master the way you deliver your content is just as important as the content itself. In some cases it is more important.

Years ago I helped a guy out that I met in a gaming store. We shall call him “Dave”. He had been a Dungeon Master for three years but he was frustrated. He had a hard time with experienced players staying in his groups, and felt like he had hit a wall in his skill set. He was thinking of abandoning trying to run games and just go back to playing. We had a good chat about his experiences, and he asked me if I would run a session for his group. He wanted me to show him everything I did prior to the game, and sit over my shoulder as I ran it. A few days later I sat down with him several hours before our planned game session. I showed him my prep work. I went over the adventure I was going to run, and each encounter. I also reviewed each character sheet and explained how I saw each character fitting into the story. He was in shock. “Wow, I had no idea you did so much work before hand” was his comment. Well lets fast forward to the game session itself. So he had six players. Each arrived and came into his home, and he greeted them and introduced me. Soon they all were sitting around the table in their favorite ritualistic spots and we got underway. Four and a half hours later we finished the sessions and all the players and their Dungeon Master were smiling and bouncing of the walls. “No offense to you Dave, but that was the best game of Dungeons and Dragons I have ever played” was one comment. Dave was not offended, he was instead full of energy and enthusiasm. After the players left I sat down with Dave and we went over the differences between our Dungeon Mastering styles. We went over the key differences and discussed how he would implement change in his game. Much of what he was doing wrong was correctable. Speaking in first person and not third person. Referring to his players by their character names and not the players names. Giving more thought provoking descriptions and describing combat other than simply saying “You hit, you miss” etc. We also drew comparisons in our personalities, and there were not many. Bottom line was we were very different people and he was not probably going to be comfortable with standing up, hurling his arms around and voice acting bar wenches. So we ironed out his strengths and worked with those. In the end however despite the personality differences, we were able to make him a better story teller, which was where he was really falling down. I continued to bump into Dave and some of his players for a couple of years afterwards, and their game sessions had vastly improved. Anyone can learn to be a better storyteller but you have to realize who YOU are as a person, and be able to figure out the best way for you to tell a story with your personality.

When it comes to story telling there are several key aspects.  Many of which can be implemented by each and every Dungeon Master, and a few that you either will be able to do well or should not do at all! Some times it is better to omit a certain aspect than do it poorly. Know yourself and be honest with yourself. If you do not have the skill set for somethings, be honest enough to admit it and avoid it. We shall now go over the most important ones.

Preparation.

Prepare your story. This is not the same thing as preparing your game session or your adventure. Story preparation is more about mentally visualizing the story unfolding ahead of time. Try to run it through your mind and imagine each character and Non Player Character. Think through and visualize each encounter. By doing this you will see it. Seeing it will help you become better at giving descriptions. You will notice the things that “pop” in your mind, and can use those to enhance your delivery when you describe the scene to your players. If you do not have a creative imagination and are unable to do this, well I am sorry to say you should not be a Dungeon Master. One thing a good Dungeon Master has to have is a vivid imagination.

Description.

Being able to describe the scene to your players in such away as to spark their imagination and create a mental picture is important. How you do this requires an understanding of how people think. You need to know how to deliver your description in such a way that they will listen to the details and visualize them. One fault many Dungeon Masters make is reading a detailed description to their players like reading from a book. DON’T! Its boring and sounds rehearsed. It is far better to describe the scene free form so that you can use your voice to inflect tension and atmosphere. Its OK to make yourself notes, but do not read them like a page from a book. Also learn to use your voice. Change the tone and pitch when describing something foreboding, be enthusiastic when describing something that should be wonderful etc. Now here is something that I learned from my vast years of experience and I am going to share with you to hopefully really help you improve your ability to create a visual picture for your players. Do not rob your players of their own ability to imagine! As Dungeon Masters we often feel it is our job to describe the scene. We take pride in going into great detail and telling our players what they see. This can be counter productive. You can go to far. It is better to give enough detail as to spur the imagination but do not try to control what the player imagines.

No two people will imagine the exact same thing the same way, and this is OK. As a Dungeon Master saying a simple phrase like “Imagine an abandoned spooky three story mansion” is more powerful than going into para-graphic depth with a description about each broken shutter and spooky looking tree in the courtyard. Allowing your players to imagine things is a great way to allow them deeper immersion, as their minds will create what they can imagine to be believable. I often start with a simple teaser like that. I am going to give you a couple of examples and then discuss them.

Example 1.

“You emerge from the edge of the pine forest and into the clearing. The bright sun hits your face and assaults your eyes as you step into the open. It feels far warmer, and several degrees hotter in the clearing than it did while you were protected by the forest canopy. You squint your eyes as they become accustomed to the light and hold your hand to your forehead, to keep the bright sun from obscuring your vision. As you look ahead you see what looks like a ruined building. It is half sunken into the ground, and covered in vines and creepers. The walls are mossy and in ill repair, one area of the left wall has stones missing, and much of the details of the architecture has been washed away by the elements over the centuries. As you move closer, and as your eyes continue to adjust to the light, you can see warn markings around the edge of the arched doorway. The marking look mysterious and possibly of an arcane nature. The door way itself sits at an angle as the left side of the building has sunken deep into the ground. You wonder what subterranean event has caused the foundation of the vast stone temple to sink in such away. You notice the lack of birds singing, and the general absence of natural sounds that you would expect to hear in a forest clearing of this kind. It is clear to you by the undisturbed plants that cover the ground around the clearing, that no one has entered the clearing in a long while. You feel apprehensive and wary as you contemplate what may lie inside the temple, or in the sunken depths of what lies bellow”.

Example 2.

” As you leave the forest and look into the clearing, you see a ruined temple ahead. It is bathed by the rays of the bright sun. Try to imagine a ruined temple covered in vines. It has sunken into the ground somewhat. The door way is visible beneath an arch that has markings around it”.

The first example takes great lengths to describe the scene in detail. However, if you read this to your players as if it were a page in a book, Much of the detail will be missed and will slip through their minds, and as they try to imagine the scene exactly as you describe it they will struggle. As you read it I bet most of you reached the end and had already forgotten the fact that I had mentioned part of one of the walls had bricks missing which may be an alternate way in if explored. Thus an important clue may be overlooked.

The second does just enough to provoke your players imaginations and their minds are allowed to conjured up the image.  They will then ask questions to validate their mental picture, and you can then tell them about the arcane looking symbols over the arch and the missing stones in the left wall etc. It will then be more meaningful and and observed.

Here are some points to raise about the two examples. They will know it is hot and bright it is, by the fact that you mentioned it was bathed in the suns rays in the second example, so it is not really necessary to describe it as we did in the first. You also do not need to tell them details about undisturbed plants, and by including it, you rob some players of chances to use skills such as tracking, and imply that they are all equally observant about those facts. You did not give them a chance to perform some actions prior to leaving the clearing in the first example and maybe the players did not WANT to approach the temple yet. The way you deliver the above two examples vocally, will help dictate how the mental pictures form in your players mind.

The second example (if delivered correctly) is by far a better way, and not only allows for, but encourages your players to use their imaginations. It would be OK to maybe give a hint of more detail in the second example, but I find many times it is just not necessary. Of course, you have to be ready to fill in the blanks and answer the questions that the players throw at you. Learning how to deliver the content takes practice, and you will find you may have to tweak your delivery method several times before you find the right balance between given detail and provoked imagination. If you are worried that the players will not ask the right questions as to discover the important details such as the arcane marks or missing stones from the wall, this is where you utilize a little trick. If the players ask the right questions, then they get the right answers and feel accomplished in doing so. If not you take the opportune moment to bring it up yourself. For example. When a player says “OK I move slowly over towards the arch way”, you can then interject by saying “as you get closer your eyes are drawn to strange markings carved into the stone above the arch”. These skills can make a huge difference in your ability to set the right mood and will get a different reaction when delivered in this way than if you just explained them as part of the initial description.

In the second part of this series we will talk about using your voice, and about being animated, as well as other aspects of story telling.

Happy Gaming………..

World Building Guide. Part Five.

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If you have been following the series thus far, by now you already have the framework for a thriving developing world, for you and your players to explore and enjoy. We have some immersive villages and towns for our players to visit, as well as a wealth of history for them to draw from. Sooner or later however, our players will want their characters to do what adventuring is really all about. Dungeon delving, slaying evil, exploring ruins and battling foul and dangerous monsters are the bread and butter of the adventurer life, but most of these things will not be found just down the street from the local tavern. Your world will need a variety of locations and features that will provide this kind of stimulation to the players, and these special features are going to be one of the most important aspects of your world.

When I begin creating these kinds of locations I always go back to the history aspect first. Why do the ruins exist and what where they before ruins? How and why does this network of underground tunnels exist? was this man made or a natural occurrence? etc. Regardless of the origin, I need to be able to explain it. In the example of a network of underground caverns, how did they come to exist? Well most caves are caused by centuries of erosion, as water seeps through the cracks in the rock and the water absorbs carbon dioxide and creates carbonic acid. If we are talking about some old ruins that are hidden deep inside a forest, maybe centuries ago it was a reclusive temple of worship for elves. I need to have an idea of the origin of my feature in order to properly develop it and decide why this place should hold interest for my players. You should also be able to explain why others have not came across it before and ransacked the place, or if others have tried and failed. If they failed, then what was the reason for their failure. If a ruined temple was to sit on the outskirts of a forest and near a village, it is unlikely that it has not already been fully discovered and explored.

Lets look at the cave networks mentioned in previous parts of this series. The large expansive caves in the mountain side that have become home to goblin refugees. After the goblins were driven out by our king from the west, some of those that survived were driven into the mountains. Needing shelter they came across this cavern network. The caves were formed naturally over centuries as erosion worked at the rock, and now there is a network of winding natural caverns creeping down into the mountains. Our goblins no doubt met a few unpleasant creatures that may have previously taken up residence, but they managed to clear out enough of the caverns to feel somewhat safe. Perhaps they also found a good source of water in an underwater lake or river, where water had been gathering over time. We know that the mountains have forests at its foothills, so they have a source for wood and food very close by too. Over time the goblins have repopulated their numbers, and may have decided that the caverns (as they are) are not adequate, and they may have dug into the rock and created some additional tunnels and chambers. Also perhaps one goblin has risen to claim leadership and has crowned himself the new goblin king of this tribe. He may have wanted grander chambers, so the goblins (once again) dug out more goblin made tunnels, including some more secure chambers to house the treasures the king has begun to amass from raiding.

Taking all this into account I would begin drawing out my cavern networks, and making sure that I have room to expand them should I need too. I want my players to be able to explore my caverns and encounter my goblins. I also want them to have a few more challenges other than a goblin horde. Any other creatures I decide to put in my caverns have to be done so with several considerations. How will these creatures interact with the goblins? Are they friendly or allies to the tribe, or are they hostile?  If they are hostile creatures, then why have the goblins not killed them or vise versa? I decide to put a couple of trolls down one of the natural caverns. At first the trolls and goblins were at odds, and many goblins and a few trolls were killed. Overtime however, the goblins figured out that if they threw a portion of their prey and food down the tunnel where the trolls live, the trolls would leave them alone for the most part. The trolls get easy food out of the bargain and as their numbers are diminished, this seems like an amicable and safer arrangement. The goblins and trolls (while not allies) have created a sort of symbiotic relationship that works. Also should the caverns get invaded, the goblins know that a couple of enraged trolls could be a good asset for them.

I would like to include a trap or two in my caverns, but neither goblins or trolls really have the mental aptitude for creating any trap that would be considered remotely cunning, so instead I will lend from nature. Perhaps there is an underground river very close to the surface of one particular tunnel. The running water has been eating away at the cavern floor above, and it is now very thin and brittle. A couple of goblins fell through a few years ago, so the goblins know to stay clear of that tunnel and have created an alternative route around it. our adventurers would not know this however, and should they fall through, they would end up in the fast flowing underground river. This could lead to drowning, or maybe there are a few air pockets and by following the river maybe an entirely new special feature or location is discovered. As I sit here creating this dungeon and by following my own process, I am naturally creating options for additional content for my world. I began devising a trap, and in doing so created a viable new place for adventure for my players. I also want to examine the geographic aspects of my caverns. If water is dripping down we are going to see stalactites and stalagmites in some areas, as well as possible mold, mildew and fungus. All these aspects are to be considered.

This is one of the advantages in creating worlds in this way. Following the steps In this five part series will not only allow you to create a believable and vibrant world, but the process itself will do much of the work for you. Your world will grow and expand naturally through this process and as such will be far superior to anything you could have thrown together at random. In the first part of the series I told you you would never finish your world. Now I am sure you can see why. It is an amateur Dungeon Master that draws a map, scribbles in some forests, mountains and swamps and then draws dots on the map to represent towns etc without even considering how each and every feature would come to be there. So many people have asked me to look at their world and critique it. I hate doing this. Mostly because in my opinion the majority are not worlds, but just maps. They have no real depth and I can look at the map and see so many geographical anomalies or unexplained oddities. Often rather than critique it and hurt their feelings I will just say something like “That’s a nice map you have drawn there, hey can you tell me how come this lake is here in the northern hemisphere without any river or water source flowing to it? or why is this town here in the middle of no where, and how do its citizens survive?”. I point out a few floors in their logic and allow them to struggle to answer the questions for themselves. At this point they usually get the point.

A map is not a world. It is but a tool to help you to visualize the world. Maps are powerful, as they allow others to visualize what you already have imagined in your head. Never allow the map to lead the creation of the world, instead create the world and then map it.

I hope that you are willing to put in the work that is needed to create a real and believable world. If you do I can promise that you and your players will not regret it, and that your stories will be all the richer for it. If you do not want to do the work, or do not have time, then I seriously suggest you do not waste your time and more importantly the time of your players by coming up with some lame and inferior shell of a world. Go buy a published one and read it! As a player I expect my Dungeon Master to have put in the work and present me with a game session worthy of our mutually devoted time. If I see holes and gaps throughout his storytelling or if I can not get a feeling of immersion at his game, the odds are I will not be visiting his world or his gaming table again. Recently I have had discussions with a few acquaintances and viewers of our show Howreroll, and they talk to me about other games going on that they are or were a part of. We get complimented for how our games are run and often they ask why we can achieve and do what we do where others can not or do not. All I can really say is the more you do something the more you improve. I have thirty three plus years of gaming experience and thousands of hours put in at the gaming table. I have evolved in my craft and am very critical of my performance as a Dungeon Master. I also put in ten to fifteen hours of prep time for each of our bi weekly shows. Work yields reward. Sadly if you can not or will not do the work required, you will have a poor results and too many are willing to settle for that. I am not…….

World Building Guide. Part 4.

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One of the most important aspects of creating a believable world, is developing a rich and colorful history. It is not enough to create a world, city or village and just expect your players to buy into it. If you look at our own world, you can see parallels in some current things, based on patterns from the past. Cultures grow and change, Forests thrive or vanish and even land masses change. While you may not have to go so in depth as to account for inches lost along the regional coast lines, it is important to create a past for your world.

So far in our series we have been developing a single region. The region contains a dozen or so settlements, a small mountain range to its north, a prominent forest and at least one river. The village of Newton and the town of Heraford (being part of this region) have witnessed many things over the years. So how did these settlements come to pass? what has happened in the region that has shaped the citizens way of life? Lets begin by once again making a few basic observations, and some notes.

Firstly I need to decide on a time line. lets say the current year is 2360. This would mean that technically I have two thousand three hundred and sixty years of history to account for. That sounds like a daunting task, but in reality it is not. History is remembered by its significant moments, and not the day to day actions of the people or the regular daily involvements of nature. What we have to decide is the key moments in our worlds history, and in particular (for now) the ones that pertain to our region. At this point I do not need to create every event in our time line, I only need to think about anything monumental and big enough to have had a direct impact on the region we are developing. I do not want my region to be too new, but at the same time it is clearly not one of the oldest and most developed regions in the world. I am going to make a few notes to help me flesh out a time line at this point.

I decide my region became settled in as part of a conquest. Six hundred years ago this region was populated by only a few tribes of humans and by many more goblins that it has dwelling in it today. I decide that the settlers came from the west, and as such my earliest settlements would have developed in that direction. The city that I placed in my region is in the west, so It makes viable sense that it began as a village six hundred years ago, and has grown up over time to become the city it is today. The settlers spread eastwards and it would probably take a few generations or so before they may have settled where Heraford is situated so maybe Heraford began as a village four hundred years ago. Newton is close to Heraford so maybe it was only one hundred years later when they began to settle on the banks of the river and create a village. This would put Newton being about three hundred years old as a village. Of course during this time they were also spreading North and Southward too. In making these notes I answer a few questions for myself, but raise new ones. For example why did the folk of Heraford branch out and create Newton? Well lets assume that as the original settlement village grew and expanded in the west, some pioneers wanted a chance to improve their lot in life so left and traveled east and settled in a new location. over time this happened again but each time they would not want to be too far from civilization, and the safety of being close to an established settlement. In this way Heraford was created. Discovering the river, and the forest, it was natural for the people to travel (almost a day) to gather, hunt and fish. However the forest being still very dangerous at that time would have dissuaded anyone from settling right next to it. Now over time as the goblins were driven north, and other unsavory creatures became less commonly seen, a few brave folk decided to set up an outpost at the edge of the forest and on the river to help facilitate gathering for Heraford. They would have had several skirmishes I am sure, and it would have been a tough start. Over time it would have became easier, and more and more people would end up staying at the outpost. This is how Newton started out and today it is a thriving village.

You see how this thought process works. If you examine your region and look at the land features, you will see reasons for why settlements should or should not exist. Also about now you may be looking back at some of the original decisions you made with placing settlements or land features and may wish to rethinks a few things. You may also rethink some of the relationships between towns. For example. It would seem sensible to me now that as Newton grew from an outpost that belonged to Heraford, it is logical that the small council in Newton answers to the Council in Heraford. I should also probably increase the number of families that have members in both locations too.

So far we have some local timelines started but we need more. We decided that the region developed and became civilized after a conquest. This would be a major Historical event so we need to flesh that out a little. Six hundred years ago clearly we had a conflict. Who (if anyone) ruled this region then? Who conquered it? Well as we already decided until then, this region was home to only a few human tribes, and many goblins, it would seem logical that the goblins were probably the closest thing to rulers that the region possessed. So it would become clear that the conflict was between some humans from the west, and the goblins. I am going to decide that this region was home to six different goblin tribes, and the largest of which had a king named Rablegash the mighty. The region to the west is large and a domain for human kind. It is (at that time) going to be ruled by Horace Vamillion the third. So six hundred years ago we can say that King Horace came into conflict with the goblin tribes and undoubtedly King Rablegash. Why did this happen would be my next question? I decide that the goblin tribes were growing, and tribal in fighting over territory was becoming more frequent. This lead to the tribes expanding their domains and some of them began to encroach on King Horace’s lands. Initially they were small skirmishes and raids but it soon became to frequent for King Horace to ignore. At this point, King Horace decided that defending his borders was becoming to time consuming and problematic so he decreed that he would route out the goblin menace and crush it at the source. He marched his army into the goblin lands and over a three year campaign he crushed the majority of the goblin menace and saw King Rablegash slain at the battle of  Rocky creek. The remaining goblins fled North or hid in the mountains.

Right their my little story creates the basis the basis for a historical event. It also means I need to add a special feature (Rocky Creek) to my region and ensure that most in the region know its significance. I will continue to come up with interesting historical events in this way to cover the last six hundred years. Maybe one hundred years ago there was a small goblin uprising as some of the goblins left the mountain and had to be vanquished? Maybe this occurred because deep in the mountains the goblins are running out of room? Maybe that deep cavern I added back in part 3 leads to an underground goblin kingdom? I also need to go back further in history. While the last six hundred years will be of most significance to our region, the world was shaped by events and deeds way before that. I should consider developing King Horace’s lineage as part of this too, and there are always notable events in the history of a royal family. I could go on giving examples here, but you get the idea of how to develop a time line by now. If you keep coming up with ideas, writing them down in note form and then answering any logical questions that these notes raise, you will have a good basic chronological time line  which you can continue to develop over time. I always like to leave a few decent gaps between some events, to allow myself the freedom to add historical events later. Some times (during game play) I see an opportunity for a great adventure hook that would benefit from a certain historically significant event, so I enjoy having the freedom to create it and fit it into my time line.

You can see how developing a history lends towards helping develop the current world. These historical events bring the world to life with a much needed sense of depth. The players of this world can draw from this historical knowledge. They may decide to go into the caverns to investigate and see if there is indeed a pending goblin threat, or they may be hired to do so. They may decided to scour Rocky Creek for lost items or may discover that some of the fallen warriors from the battle six hundred years ago have been seen wandering at night. Simple historical additions create opportunities for adventure hooks that can be employed by both players and Dungeon masters alike. In an organic free flowing game or (unstructured game) where the players decide more freely what they wish to do, and adventures are not given to them so linearly by the Dungeon Master, this kind of world development becomes essential. You can not progress successfully to this kind of advanced game play without a well developed world!

In the next part of this series we will look at fleshing out the details of your regions special features…….

Happy world building.