May. 1st, 2017

Unpausing

May. 1st, 2017 10:12 am
jack: (Default)
I don't want to count my chickens, but for the longest time, I've had the problem that when I have a day with no commitments, I feel like I have to take advantage of it and do all the things, and typically become overwhelmed by choice and expectation and end up doing not much.

Now, for almost the first time, I find that problem receding. I've no particular plans today, but I'm fairly confident, I'm going to spend a couple of hours hammering out miscellaneous todos, do some reading or watching tv, go for a walk outside, and maybe see Liv and Osos depending how busy we all are, and that's about all. Maybe I'll only do some of that, but that will still be good. But I don't fear I'll do *none* of that.

And that freedom makes it so much easier to do things -- to go for a walk or get into a project knowing that's time well spent, not time I intended to be doing something else.

I don't know if it will last, but despite a lot of angst about getting things done, I think having *some* month-by-month goals has been successful at making me feel *less* pressured.
jack: (Default)
Recap

GM: ...and thank you for recapping last session.
GM: 1xp and 1gp to everyone for remembering (a) they were tracking the mutineers (b) to try to get the Plot Artifacts of Ancient and Mysterious Power before them.
GM: Not really.
GM: OK, are we all set? Have we all stocked up on quarterstaffs?
GM: And 10" poles? Or not, seriously, how does anyone carry those things??
GM: And forked sticks?
GM: This is a very useful forest.
GM: Anything else?
Princess: I still have the mysterious figurines I latched onto last session, right?
Princess: They're going to be important, right?
GM: I can neither confirm nor deny.
Kitty: We could talk to the toad-seals! Maybe they'd help.
Players: Can kitty talk to other animals?
GM: Duh. That's obviously much more interesting.
Players: But...
Players: In the last session, we trampled their eggs, roasted a bunch of them, and took their meat for provisions.
Animal-loving princess: Sorry!
Players: They may not want to talk to us.
GM: Yes, that.
GM: It's always worth asking. But also, they're in a different place where you're not.
Kitty: We could talk to the goats!
Players: But they're also not here.
Players: And also, see, killed, roasted, provisions.
Players: :(
GM: I'm sorry. Keep trying! You can absolutely talk to animals and it's absolutely relevant.
GM: It's just the first um all the things you tried happened not to work specifically. But it's still good!
GM: When I *planned* this island, I didn't expect the animals to be *able* to talk (I did plan for them to be dealt with by non combat if you approached it right).
GM: I'm working on it, ok?
Players: Anything else?
GM: Oh right yes, perception checks. Everyone add roll d20 and add your perception.
GM: Kitty, add, um, +5. Smell is good.
GM: Anyway, the general gist is that you remember to watch out for the menacing pair of eyes the foraging parties reported in the forest.
GM: It's tailing you, obviously.
Kitty: Is it a cat?
GM: I can neither confirm nor deny it being retconned into the obviously narratively appropriate species.
Party: We could... split up. To um, see if we can get close enough to it.
GM: Or you could not do that.
Party: Ok, *sigh*. If it's not attacking as a group, we'll just press on.
GM: Good call.

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jack: (Default)
I really love writing up roleplaying sessions as I've done the last few times.

What I notice is that even when the events are the same, the write-up is very different. The emotional beats of the campaign are, when will the party succeed, when will they find things out, etc. But it's very hard to make that resonate in a write-up. I'm not sure why, but it almost always doesn't work.

Whereas in my write-up, the resonance comes from playing up character/player tension and gm/player tension, humorously, often exaggerated, though based on the real events. I think partly, being in the GM's head, the tense bits of the story are different for me than the players. And that works better for someone else looking in.

Anyway, novels that take the basic worldbuilding of a roleplaying campaign can be awesome (cf. Wildcards, etc). But if you try to write up the *events* it usually doesn't work, too much of the best moments rely on player interaction that can't be shared in fiction, and doesn't provide the hooks to care about the characters fiction needs.
jack: (Default)
Mostly first-level combat. Again, a medly of stuff I've stumbled into, please do suggest things.

Delegate whatever you easily can. Get someone else to track initiative order so you don't have to! And look things up if possible, when you want to check an official rule.

Keeping my session notes in tabs in notepad++ on a smartphone works surprisingly well. I can keep a relevant section easily visible, but not very visible to anyone else, needs little table space. And I can google for official stats for monsters if I need ("it's a... panther. OK, just one sec. Ok, 7 damage.").

If I track damage *done* to each NPC/monster on scratch paper, that allows everyone to know what's going on if they happen to be able to see, and establish incontrovertibly that I'm not fudging things that have already happened. However, it doesn't let people know precisely how many hitpoints are *left* which players should not know precisely (approximately how many is often obvious from the description). And if I do want to fudge a little, I can, eg. if the combat is dragging I can pretend a monster had one less hp than I originally intended, or shuffle around combined hitpoints between a crowd of mooks to keep things slightly simpler. I don't think I did last session, but I like to have the option if it would be useful.

As important to an NPC/monster as stats is their tactics: are they a predator who only attacks if they sense an easy meal? a thug who's used to winning every fight and will come in swinging but not know how to handle a combat that isn't going their way? an experienced soldier or adventurer who knows tactics, when to use cover, which enemies to target first, how to work together to gang up, etc. Don't always default to "attack until dead" or "attack inefficiently so the PCs don't all die", decide what's appropriate, and then roll with that whether they win or lose.

Likewise, do they unload with their most powerful attack first, if they're expecting a real fight? Or do they husband resources, assuming they may have many combats today and only falling back on their most powerful abilities when events start to go sour?

I don't usually have a mechanical meaning for "under half hitpoints" ("Bloodied" in 4e and 5e dnd parlance). But it's a useful metric for "does the monster switch tactics now", whether that's activating a new ability (whether they already "had" it but weren't using it), or going into a killing rage, or turning to flee.

Likewise, judge if and when opponents are likely to flee. If they *can* flee most opponents won't fight to the death, but some will. I generally eyeball this, if the fight is clearly going their way or not combined with how committed they are. A well-timed skill check can swing it though. I don't have specific mechanics for a number of hitpoints though, I assume NPCs can judge the tactical shit-hit-fan-ness as well as PCs.