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Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #95

Subscribers' Challenge: Green Dragon Blood Bath



Contents: Readers' Tips Summarized

  1. Maps: Mazes of Misery
  2. Let Players Gamble Their Experience Points On Quests
  3. Keep Your Plot Options Open
  4. There's No Such Thing As Bad Roleplaying
  5. Tips To Nudge Players Away From Hit-First, Ask-Later Mentality

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A Brief Word From Johnn

An Experiment
This week's format is a little different as I'd like to see what 9,000 Tips-subscriber GMs and I can do to a fun little table to make it a cool game master tool. Full details and the table are given in the feature section of the zine. Whether you love or hate this experiment, I'm always open to your feedback:

johnn@roleplayingtips.com


Thanks For the CSS Help!
As I said in the emails to those who responded to my request last week for help with creating a CSS articles template, the roleplayers on this list always amaze me with their generosity of time and spirit. I had many offers of help and the template is being constructed as you read this and should be done soon.

I opted not to go with CSS, thanks to some critical feedback, as I've learned style sheets are not 100% cross- browser compatible. The Roleplaying Tips Weekly web site is definitely not a graphic design masterpiece, but it is fully compatible with handhelds, Macs and PCs, Netscape, Opera and IE, and TTY. So, the new articles template will be plain HTML to retain the site's easy access.

Thanks again to everyone who offered their help.


Have a great week, and be sure to clear out an evening to roleplay online or off!

Cheers,

Johnn Four johnn@roleplayingtips.com

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Roleplaying Games Articles & Reviews Check out my other Roleplaying Games web site: http://www.roleplaygames.about.com

New This Week:

Anthropomorphic What? The Scoop On Furry Roleplaying
http://www.roleplaygames.about.com/library/weekly/aa101101.htm

Weep: A Review For The Unknown Armies RPG
http://www.roleplaygames.about.com/library/blweep.htm

Crouching Wizard, Smashing Hammer: Rune Scenario Review
http://www.roleplaygames.about.com/library/blrune2.htm

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Subscribers' Challenge: Green Dragon Blood Bath
  1. Tips Request & This Week's Main Feature: "Subscribers' Challenge: Green Dragon Blood Bath"

    A member named Jason posted a rewards chart on a GMing email list that I'm on [ DM Advice: dmadvice-subscribe@yahoogroups.com ] and I thought I'd try an experiment and get your feedback, rather than publishing the usual tips this week. This is a one-time experiment and we'll return to our regular tips format next week.

    When I first saw the chart in my Inbox, I thought to myself "classic, high-fantasy gaming!" and then filed it away for possible future campaign use. But, a couple of days later, I suddenly had an idea for enhancing the chart to increase its roleplaying aspect.

    Right after that I thought "Hey, there's over 9,000 serious game masters on the list now, and if *I* could come up with a couple of chart-enhancing ideas, what could 9,000 of us come up with?" And so was born the Subscribers' Challenge where I ask you to "think outside of the box".

    Therefore, if you get any ideas or have any tips related to the chart below, send 'em on in and I'll publish the results (in another tips issue or as a Supplemental Issue if there's enough).

    As you read the chart then, think about these questions:
    1. What ways can you think of to enhance this chart?

      For example, what about creating a manifestation sub-chart, to determine how the effects come about in-game, which in turn becomes a handy session and campaign mood tool:
      1. Sinister, subtle
      2. Silly
      3. Sensual
      4. Violent
      5. Miraculous
      6. Mundane
      7. Wondrous, magical
      8. Colourful
      9. Painful
      10. Grotesque

      Can you think of any other options, side charts, enhancements?

    2. How else can you use this chart as-is or with some modification? How can you make it a multi-purpose game master tool?

      For example, it could be great for magic item generation, alien mutations, or NPC enhancements.

    3. The chart is in D&D3E language, and if you don't play D&D would you have time to convert it to your gaming system, if applicable, and share it with the Roleplaying Tips Weekly list so other GMs of your gaming system can use it?

    Chart Overview
    When a PC bathes in green dragon blood he suffers some health damage from magic and acid, and then, if he survives, he receives a magical reward (d100 roll).

    Conversion Notes
    • A Feat is similar to a minor special ability, such as a 5 point advantage in GURPS, a +1 Virtue in Ars Magica, or a +5% Rolemaster ability.

    • A +1 reward is equal to +5% for conversion purposes.

    • D6 damage, on average, would kill a standard human NPC peasant in D&D 3E.

    • I've added explanations for the more esoteric rewards, and I'm hoping the feat and skill names themselves will help non-D&D GMs understand the nature of the boon.

    Description As Posted On The DM Advice List
    [I've edited it a bit, where appropriate.]

    When a character gets into a bath of fresh green dragon blood, he takes 2D6 damage (1D6 acid and 1D6 magic). Characters can only take one bath each. Further bathings only result in taking wounds.

    If the player rolls something that is inappropriate for the character (like if she rolls a skill and did something heroic in the combat you deem as worthy of something better) or they already have the feat, re-roll. Killing a dragon is tough in itself, let them get something good.

    Upon killing a green dragon, the creature's body begins to dissipate rapidly (because it's magical) and the blood drains into a pool. Characters will be able to harvest 2D20 teeth, 2D6 talons, and can eat all they want (the body will dissipate rapidly, totally gone in 2D6 hours).

    (See Reference Notes for meanings of numbers in parentheses)

    Green Dragon Bath Effects Chart
    1. Gain 1 level Sorcerer class
    2. Gain the Blind-Fight feat (5)
    3. Madriel's Light Tattoo (1) [Johnn: Gives a minor self-healing ability]
    4. +2 to Spellcraft skill (5)
    5. Gain the Run feat (5)
    6. +2 to Disguise skill
    7. +2 to Wilderness Lore skill
    8. Gain 1 level of Ranger
    9. Grow gills (PC can now breath underwater)
    10. +2 to any skill
    11. 1/day can cast cure light wounds at caster level 10
    12. Gain the Forester feat (2)
    13. Gain the Bullheaded feat (2)
    14. Gain the Arcane Preparation feat (2)
    15. Gain the Signature Skill feat (2)
    16. -2 to Intelligence score permanently
    17. -2 to Strength score permanently
    18. Gain 25% more experience points than you currently have
    19. Gain the Widen Spell metamagic feat (3)
    20. +2 to Dexterity score permanently
    21. Lethene's Touch Tattoo (1) [Johnn: grants an electric attack ability]
    22. +2 to Jump skill
    23. +5 to Swim skill
    24. +2 to Mimic Voice skill (4)
    25. Gain the Fast Talker feat (4)
    26. +4 to hit points permanently
    27. +1 natural armor defense bonus
    28. +2 to Balance skill
    29. Gain the Resist Poison feat (2)
    30. Gain the Artist feat (2)
    31. +2 to Animal Empathy skill
    32. +2 to Knowledge(Nature) skill
    33. +2 to Hide skill
    34. Gain Language Draconic
    35. -2 to Constitution score permanently
    36. +2 to Search skill
    37. +2 to Handle Animal skill
    38. Gain the Ambidexterity Feat (5)
    39. +3 natural armor defense bonus
    40. +5 to Knowledge(Dragon Lore) skill
    41. +2 to Wisdom score permanently
    42. Gain +2 hit points
    43. +3 to Ride Dragon skill
    44. Any rings worn meld to skin and no longer take-up a ring slot and ring abilities become a natural ability [Johnn: D&D restricts one ring slot per hand]
    45. PC can see twice as far, +5 to Spot skill
    46. Gain the Power Attack feat (5)
    47. Gain the Leadership feat (6)
    48. Corean's Tattoo (1) [Johnn: PC needs +1 magic weapons to hit him now]
    49. +2 to Pick Pockets skill
    50. Gain the Iron Will feat (5)
    51. Gain the Great Cleave feat (2)
    52. Gain the Luck of Heroes feat (2)
    53. Gain the Language(Dwarven) skill
    54. Gain one level in Bard class
    55. +2 to Strength score permanently
    56. +3 to Alchemy skill
    57. +2 to Knowledge(Arcane) skill
    58. 1/day haste as a 10th level sorcerer
    59. Gain one level in your highest class
    60. Gain one level in Druid class
    61. +2 to Heal skill
    62. +2 to Use Rope skill
    63. +2 to Intuit Direction skill
    64. +2 to Charisma score permanently
    65. PC's eyes glow bright green any time they are in low light conditions or darker
    66. Gain one level in Cleric class
    67. Gain Courteous Magocracy feat (2)
    68. Hair grows all over PC's entire body at the rate of 1"/day until 24" long; when cut it begins again
    69. PC's feet become green, scaly, and double in size
    70. Gain Street Smart feat (2)
    71. +2 to Innuendo skill
    72. Gain Perfect Memory feat (4)
    73. +2 to Bluff skill
    74. PC's sight is now only 10 feet
    75. Gain Smooth Talk feat (2)
    76. +2 to Search skill
    77. +2 to Constitution permanently
    78. 1/day Detect Magic ability
    79. Gain Thug feat (2)
    80. +2 to Listen skill
    81. +4 to Balance skill
    82. Super clumsy: natural 1 on skill rolls means PC falls down and is stunned for 1D4 rounds
    83. 1/day can cast light spell as a 10 level sorcerer
    84. PC now takes double damage from acid attacks
    85. Gain 1 Level wizard
    86. +4 misc. mod forgery
    87. Gain the Track feat (5)
    88. PC grows a mole three inches across on face, -1 to Charisma score
    89. Gain one level in Paladin class
    90. Gain the Endurance feat (5)
    91. +2 to Knowledge(Planes/Dimensions) skill
    92. +2 to Move Silently skill
    93. +2 to Gather Information skill
    94. Gain Extra Undead Turning, Spell Mastery, or Weapon Specialization feat (5)
    95. Acid Resistance ability DC15
    96. +2 to Strength score permanently
    97. +5 natural armor defense bonus
    98. +2 to hit green dragons
    99. +2 to Intelligence score permanently
    100. Regenerate 1 hit point/wound per hour (does not re-grow limbs)


    Reference Books (number in parentheses)
    1. Relics and Rituals from Swords and Sorcery http://www.swordsorcery.com/
    2. Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting from WoTC http://www.wizards.com/catalog/product.asp?wtc11836
    3. Magic of Faerun from WoTC http://www.wizards.com/catalog/product.asp?WTC11964
    4. Traps and Treachery from Fantasy Flight Games http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/products.html
    5. 3rd ed D&D Player's Handbook from WoTC http://www.wizards.com/catalog/product.asp?TSR11550
    6. 3rd ed D&D DMG from WoTC http://www.wizards.com/catalog/product.asp?TSR11551

    So, what do you think? Are there any ways to change or improve this chart, use it for different purposes, or make it a useful tool for GMs of different systems other than D&D?

    One thing I like about the chart from a GM standpoint are the skill and feat rewards. A great way to encourage roleplaying is to help PCs develop their knowledge and social skills. In some campaigns, the pressure to take combat abilities is too great, and roleplaying skills are neglected. This could be used in those cases as a special remedy.

    I hope you enjoy the challenge and I look forward to your feedback and tips. And remember, this is a one-time experiment and I'll be returning to the regular tips format next week (so don't despair if you really disliked the chart ;).

    Send your tips and thoughts to:

    johnn@roleplayingtips.com

    Thanks! :)

    P.S. Thanks to Jason for giving permission to publish the chart!

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    Readers' Tips Of The Week:

    1. Maps: Mazes of Misery
      From: Glenn Bane
      Excerpted from: "The Taltethian Crier #1"
      To subscribe: 1bohemian@graphic-designer.com

      No two things can disrupt game play and narrative flow quicker than constantly having to update and re-update maps. Dungeons promise three things:
      • Encounters
      • Treasure
      • Tedious mapping

      A dungeon is a mixed blessing. The problem with maps is that you have to have them. How then can you keep your maps and make your players happy? My best suggestion is that you ask your players two questions"

      1. "Does anyone want to be the mapper (cartographer)?"
      2. "Does anyone mind a player mapper?"

      If the answer to either question is "no", then don't make them do it. If they don't want to then it will not be any more fun if you make them.

      The best alternative to PC mapping is NPC mapping. Have the players enlist the aid of a NPC mapper. As the GM, you will map for them as they move through the dungeon. This ensures accurate, reliable maps. If the players hire a cheap mapper or guide then there should be flaws in the map accuracy. This will nullify discrepancies between GM descriptions and "what you really meant to say..."

      A GM benefit to this approach is that players are more likely to overlook secret doors and hidden clues if they do not map for themselves. This adds a layer of realism to the campaign.

      The NPC mapper approach also speeds up game-play and ends long lulls in the action and narration while the mapper "catches up". Both players and GMs will appreciate the extra time to devote to the story itself.

      Finally, there is an area of risk that can be associated with NPC mappers. What happens if the mapper runs off with the map in a panic? What if the NPC is a villainous agent, opposed to the characters' party and has been paid to get the players hopelessly lost? There are endless possibilities.



    2. Let Players Gamble Their Experience Points On Quests
      From: Bannister N.

      I had a tips suggestion relating to General GMing tips from Mike S, tips #94, part 3 [ http://www.roleplayingtips.com/issue94.asp#r3 ]

      Does Story line and/or Plot have to rule the game?

      I've never let a story line ruin the players' fun. In fact, some of the best scenarios are when the players are calling all the shots and I just run the game. Here are a few tips on how this can work.

      1. Players Set Their Own Quests
        My players have always had to set their own quests. That way I know what they are after and where their needs are. There's no need to ask them or survey them, they'll discuss it openly in game.

        To encourage this I allow them to "gamble their experience" on quests they set for themselves. I set reasonable odds and allow them to play the rest. If they think the odds are a bit high they'll wait a few levels before attempting to complete said quest. If odds are too low, I usually add a time limit to up the odds.

      2. Set Events Regardless Of Player Participation
        I set in motion a series of events that players can participate in if they wish, but that will occur regardless of whether they do their own thing. As a result my world has become so much more real. Events don't take place as the players happen across them; events just happen and either the players were there or they weren't.

        I create a simple list of what happens, when, where, and to whom. And, sometimes, if players have the opportunity to find out I'll add a "why" to it as well.

        Lets take a set of a events from a well-known movie:
        1. Good guys steal secret plans to Death Star
        2. Bad guys chase good guys and capture them
        3. Robots eject from good guys craft in order to seek Jedi for quest
        4. Robots, with Jedi & farm boy, find escape craft, but are captured
        5. Escape craft gets away but loses Jedi
        6. Princess joins group, goes to hideaway and plans attack
        7. Attack happens
        8. The bad guys are destroyed

        I think you get the drift. Now, if the players were at the bar on Tantooine and spoke to one of spacecraft pilots, or had a possibility of being in contact, I'd have the local storm troopers and our other NPCs worked out. But, until the players even think of joining them on the millennium falcon, there is no need to know that step g) is or isn't going to happen, so I wouldn't detail those plans.

        Since the above-mentioned list would typically take 5-10 role play sessions, I have a general idea if I need to flesh out the events for the players before next week. I'd also come up with some contingency plans in case the players somehow manage to not have the star destroyer follow them back to the rebel base.

      3. Set Scenes Not Scenarios
        Start by having a broad general knowledge of everything in the local gaming area. Have an encounter table for various areas (i.e. wilderness, rural, urban) and an understanding of why a town exists, as in trade routes, production of goods, border patrol, centre of populace, main markets, a simple idea of its size and primary races, and so on. That's all you need.

        If players need an adventure hook, get the related encounter chart, make an encounter roll, and have the locals complain about the problem. If players don't want to take the bait, you've not wasted time and effort on something just for them to abandon it, and you don't feel the need to force them to go along anyway.

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      4. Keep Your Plot Options Open
        From: Dave G.

        [In Response to http://www.roleplayingtips.com/issue94.asp ]

        Johnn,

        Great issue. I felt that a lot of things that people had to say were right on. There was only one caution I would offer your readers in regards to the 4th item:

        "4. Hinge A Key Element Of The Plot-Line On Each Of The Heroes"

        This is a great idea, but there's potential for disaster here. What happens if a main character dies? The DM must be prepared to keep plot integrity without sacrificing her creative genius. If a player dies who is critical to an element of the plot, it can get tricky to find an alternate route.

        Sometimes, I have found that the best way to take care of this problem myself is to NOT change the plot at all as it gives the remaining heroes the chance for some role-played mourning:

        "Man, if Greenbriar was alive we could have beaten that plant thing a whole lot easier!"

        If you key a specific element to an individual, I recommend throwing a variable in the plot to help the players out, such as a special item or 'random' encounter that somehow prepares the party for dealing with something that their skills no longer are quite as good at handling.

        Thought I'd throw in my two coppers! Keep up the good work!

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      5. There's No Such Thing As Bad Roleplaying
        From: Ted O.

        Key to rewarding RP: there is no such thing as bad Roleplaying -- any sincere effort, regardless of the skill level of the player RPing, is good RPing. Never ridicule a player's sincere RPing efforts. Reward him for trying, and don't stand for the other players being critical of low- RPing skill, either.

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      6. Tips To Nudge Players Away From Hit-First, Ask-Later Mentality
        From: Ted O.

        I had an interesting experience recently where the players encountered a well surrounded by skulls. The theory was, if the players tossed a coin in the well, the skulls would give them hints about what's going on. One player decided that the well was the source of great evil, and he must kill the skulls before they summon the evil out of the well to kill them. Whap, whap, whap -- skull bits are flying everywhere. Later, the gang is going through The Hard Way, having not gotten the hint about The Easier Way. They keep trying to get through this one passage and keep being forced to retreat. They come back to the room with the well & skull- bits, and toss a coin in for good luck, so I had a bit of jaw-bone clatter on the floor, unable to talk.

        Eventually, one of the players says "hmmm, maybe we should have seen if the skulls had anything interesting to say before we destroyed them all..." I tried to hide my smug grin, but I think they saw it.

        ...And I think they get the idea, now.

        In a similar vane, you can have the monster beg for his life, "help you, I will -- tell you my master's plans, I can", or whatever -- so even if the players start by fighting, they get talked-into talking.

        Future minions can open combat with "wait! I have a proposal..." Sometimes this can be sincere, sometimes it can be so the ambushers can get the initiative.

        ...But the DM can mix things up, and make it clear that sometimes parley is important. Just remember: you don't have to MAKE your players parley THIS session -- just plant the seed of the idea that maybe, sometimes, they ought to talk to the easy combatants before offing them -- or wait until the other guys draw their swords.

        Another trick is to make the odds so overwhelming against the players that it's clear that their only chance is to talk. If your players are thick-skulled and don't see it, have the bad guys only knock them out, strip & bind them, then interrogate/torture the PCs. This should plant the idea "ok, we didn't do so well in combat, perhaps we can talk our way out of this." If not, maybe as the players talk about "what should we do?", the DM could just casually mention "I suppose negotiation is out of the question, eh?"

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