Author Archives: Johnn Four
Author Archives: Johnn Four
I was excited to play but bored within minutes. It became difficult to focus. I noticed other players starting to zone out too. We were on Zoom, making it even harder. Ideas and collaboration stopped. It became GM => Player => Repeat. No flow between players. No flow between party and GM. And the story […]Continue reading
Plot Factory Tips When something automagically generates valuable plot hooks within your System, Story, or Setting, I call that a Plot Factory. Plot Factories have been mentioned before here and here. And to help you worry less about your plot hooks and adventure seeds, I want to show you today how to craft Plot Factories […]Continue reading
RPT GM JS asked me this question about allowing a certain player action: Hey Johnn, If you have a player cast charm monster and then speak with animals. Would you let them communicate with a Worg? I know by the letter of the rules it is a NO. But I wanted to get your take. […]Continue reading
You pour yourself into crafting the perfect ensemble of NPCs. Smith, soldier, spy. Cooper, captain, King. Game day arrives and with relish you walk them onto the stage. And guess what happens next? That’s right: Player 1: I attack the King! Player 2: I charge the spy! Player 3: How much XP is the smith […]Continue reading
When there’s good communication, it’s invisible. When there’s bad communication, everyone feels it. As an anti-social, only child introvert, I’ve always considered myself as having a low emotional quotient. I’m much more polite in writing. 🙂 At work I’ve been called direct due to my questions. Being direct is effective, in my experience. It helps […]Continue reading
Make your adventures wondrous with terrific drama. We want tension in our plots and gameplay that escalates as players get close to the climactic ending. To increase drama we raise the Stakes (what’s in it for the characters) and toughen the Conflicts (foes, hazards, obstacles, challenges). However, we shouldn’t make every encounter even more tense […]Continue reading
Dia Dhuit Johnn, How can you make travel and exploration more interesting? And what can we do about players who like to kill everything and ignore roleplay? I’ll share a couple of tips on these topics, triggered by recent emails, with you today. Too Hack & Slash Focused Roleplaying Tips GM JG emailed me yesterday: […]Continue reading
I remember getting caught with my pants down running Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. One player had magic claws that could chew through six feet of rock each round. When the party finally made their way to the villain’s lair, they bypassed an entire page devoted to the magic barriers, traps, and tricks by digging through […]Continue reading
How do you make your next combat fast and exciting effective 3 Round Combat Plans? And what are we supposed to do in each round? What is our strategy here? That’s what I show you in today’s tips, which are taken from my brand new Faster Combat 5E course launching this spring. Today, I’ll go […]Continue reading
Today I have three quick resources shared with me by RPT readers that you might be interested in. Weather Tables The first is a weather generator one-page cheat sheet by Rick Herron. He wrote in response to a Musing where I talked about a weather die-drop table for my Demonplague campaign (which is on haitus […]Continue reading
One of my players, Colin, has stepped up to GM our group through the D&D 5E module, Out of the Abyss.
We’re taking turns being GM. He’ll run his game, then next time I run Murder Hobos, and so on. This means I’ll be GMing about once a month now.
My character is a third level cleric of Helm. Guiscard Windholme, brother of another player’s PC, Raphael. Mike and I chatted by email about making our PCs family. Raphael is always getting into trouble, and Guiscard is always trying to save him.Continue reading
Bypassing a trapped stairwell, they descend into a room with three terrible monsters (umber hulks) trapped behind bars on one side and a tough metal door on the other. The Hobos quietly investigate. However, they hear a voice on the other side of the door: “Has anyone got pants?” Then a loud thunder crack nearly shatters the portal.
This enrages the umber hulks and the creatures start battering their cage. The portal opens. On the other side is a shovel-wielding pantless half-elf. (Welcome new player James and his bard, Captain William Blien!) “Hello. I have no pants. Can you help?”Continue reading
Memorable non-player characters are distinct. Whether you created an NPC or it came out of a published adventure, it is up to you as game master to make each quest giver, tavern goer, and orc slaver different from the rest.
The key to creating a believable, distinct cast lies in your performances. This might seem daunting, especially since every other player at the table has only one character to worry about while you have dozens.Continue reading
I love space opera, laser swords, and ray guns, jet bikes in space swooping around ships bigger than they are and winning. These epic stories in vast galaxies sometimes take place a long time ago, far far away, and sometimes they’re in our own time and space, but you need to play a video game well enough to even be noticed by the star league. I love the scope, tone, and feel, but those things all play second fiddle to what makes space opera most compelling to me: the characters and their personal stories.Continue reading
Myron Yorick, the king’s younger brother, went into the service of Our Lady in White, as was customary for younger siblings. He was a potent preacher, full of ecstasy and fire. When his discovered his brother’s plans to give preferential treatment to decadent Coraltoni wine merchants who would undercut the valuable Sweetblood trade, he resolved to do something about it.
He usurped the throne, threw out the Coraltoni pisswine vendors, and launched a war with Coralton over the trade routes to the Sword Sea. And though he eventually fell, he did not go quietly — the assassins who killed him had to poison, shoot, stab, beat, and burn him with magic before tossing him in the river, where he finally died of hypothermia while trying to claw up out of the ice. Then, as his body was cremated, he sat up in his casket.Continue reading
At the end of a long campaign, I want my players and I to feel totally satisfied. I mean the sort of satisfaction one gets when a story wraps up with no question unanswered. The kind of story that ends with every major character’s arc finished and accounted.
This is a challenge when there’s only a single person telling a story – just think of all the novels that have left you hanging in one way or another over the years. But when a group of friends gets into collaborative tale-spinning one chapter at a time with long breaks between, it is almost impossible to wrap up everything with a tidy bow.Continue reading
Knowing who is in power is important in any game where you want locations to serve as more than a simple backdrop, because the character of those in positions of power often reflects that of the kingdom itself. Having your ruler emphasize the themes of your kingdom will hammer those details home to your players. It is also useful information to have in the back of your mind when anything that affects kingdom law or policy occurs in-game.
This article takes you through the process of choosing an appropriate government type for your kingdom and then discusses how you can use this in play to give your campaign world more depth.Continue reading
In RPT#666 I wrote an article explaining how to improvise rising action during the game. This approach adds tension at a tactical level, looking at the story one encounter at a time.
However it is also possible to add increasing tension as a fundamental structure to the story. This essay explores ways to embed rising stakes into your stories.Continue reading
What is space opera, and how do you make it? How do people get around? Why are they out there?Continue reading