Try before you buy – Board games on iOS

July 21, 2014 Leave a comment

Recently I’ve picked up a few games for the iPhone that started out as more traditional board or card games. A lot of them are great versions of the originals, with the added bonus of always being in your pocket, and allowing online games with friends who may not be able to make game night. They also tend to be a fraction of the cost of the physical board game.

hive.pngOne of my favorites is Hive. I bought this first as a physical board game at the recommendation of the Wyvern’s Tale. Essentially it is like a game of chess, in which different bugs move in different ways, and the object is to completely surround the opposing player’s bee. This is one of those easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master games, and has won a ton of awards. It quickly became one of my favorite games, and the quality of the physical tiles is fantastic. They have a nice weight and are clearly built to last. Not sure if you’re crazy about the concept? At a list price of $32, that can be a lot for something you may or may not like. Why not try it out first? The $2 iOS version will teach you all the rules through a tutorial, has two player local or online play, as well as play against various difficulties of AI. If it becomes one of your favorites, you can always pick up a copy at your friendly local gaming store!

Screen shot 2014-07-21 at 10.25.43 AMAnother one I tried out at a recent board game night was Fluxx. This is another seemingly simple game, that can great pretty crazy pretty quickly. The main goal is to collect “keepers” that match whatever the current goal card has on it. Keepers can be physical things, or concepts such as cookies, pizza, love, dreams, music, the brain, the rocket. The goals combine these like “Hearts and Minds” which requires both the brain and love, or “Dreamland” which requires both dreams and sleep. It’s kind of weird starting out, but you quickly get the hang of it. Other cards allow you to draw or discard more cards, or affect other player’s hands to try and get the keepers you need to win! There are a ton of expansions for Fluxx, The physical deck lists for $16, but if you’re not sure, the iOS version will only set you back $3.

QuarriorsScreen shot 2014-07-21 at 10.26.00 AM is a dice and card game that requires a little more screen real estate than most, so is iPad only. I’ve had my eye on this at the game store for some weeks, but never pulled the trigger. I *do* love dice games, but I didn’t know if I would like this one or, (more importantly) if my wife would like it as she is often my co-player. At a list price of $70, I really wanted to be sure. In Quarriors you start out by rolling dice to give you Quddity, a type of currency you use during your turn to summon your minions or capture other dice that are available on the cards dealt for the game. The cards are either other minion or spells which boost or augment minions, quiddity, or how many dice you draw from your bag. Overall I think it is enjoyable, but not something everyone would be in to. Is it worth $70? I don’t know. Is it worth $4? Absolutely!

Screen shot 2014-07-21 at 10.26.20 AMI’ve heard some very good things about the iOS adaptation of Lords of Waterdeep, but haven’t picked that one up as of yet. Next time you are on the fence about a board game, try before you buy! There may be an excellent mobile version out there already!

Categories: Board, Card, Dice, Reviews, Technology, Tips

Reconnecting with Roll20

July 14, 2014 Leave a comment

Roll20Recently, I started to really miss gaming with a group of friends who I had gamed with for years. We started together playing Living Greyhawk,and that branched out to many games and systems. We would play at different people’s houses, at libraries, one year we all travelled together and played GenCon and when I became “Triad” for the Florida region of Living Greyhawk, they helped me run conventions locally. We would play anywhere and everywhere we could. But then Living Greyhawk dissolved, I took a long break, and the group scattered.

I had moved from Tallahassee, Florida to Asheville, North Carolina. Another couple scored great jobs and had moved to Texas with their family. Another had gone south to Orlando… the band broke up. We’d chat on Facebook, like people do, and one of the gang said “Man, I wish we could play again like we did before!” and a light bulb went off: roll20.net

We had used roll20.net locally when a blizzard struck and we couldn’t get our Reign of Winter campaign folks all together. We had also used it to roll DCC characters and magic items, utilizing the free dice rolling utility in preparation for a week day game. For some odd reason it had never occurred to me to try and corral everyone together for a game until that point, but I’m glad it did.

We’ve used it now a handful of time and now have a weekly game happening every Tuesday night. I sprang for the “Mentor” level of sponsorship so that we can get all the bells and whistles that roll20.net has to offer. They have really upped the bar over tabletop and, as odd as this may sound, I almost prefer it to face-to-face gaming. Almost.

The “Dynamic Lighting” feature alone is worth the very low per-month charge. You can set each player’s “token” to their specific mode and strength of sight, assign someone to carry the torch (or light spell) and if that person moves away…? Well, then the rest of the party can’t see who is lurking in the cave or in the belly of that ship. If you prep beforehand, it takes into account line of sight, shadows, walls blocking the view… they have really thought of most everything. Macros, character sheets and click-to-roll buttons, sound effects, background music… it’s fantastic.

It does take longer to prep for a game, since you have to hunt down tokens or artwork, scan and size maps (which can be a pain) and scan in any handouts, puzzle pieces and so on. We use a Google+ hangout as well, since we found the voice and video to be buggy. Those quibbles and workarounds aside, it’s a great service and one I am happy to promote and support.

There is a large group of people using roll20 to organize on-line Pathfinder games, and the roll20 forums are filled with people looking for more players… so if you find yourself with some time to spare, check it out and give it a try.

Categories: Reviews, RPGs, Technology, Tips

Age of Rebellion Review

July 7, 2014 Comments off

ageDo not move along! This is the book you’ve been looking for! The Age of Rebellion Core Rulebook is the latest release in Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars RPG, and it is awesome! Entirely compatible with Edge of the Empire, it is a complete stand-alone RPG, but since it uses the same system and almost all the same mechanics it can mesh seamlessly with an existing Edge game.

Since it is designed to be played by itself, certain redundancies are necessary for people who are new to the system Fantasy Flight has developed. The first introductory chapter is almost verbatim copy of Edge, but with some very nice subtle tweeks to the font and table colors for a more attractive and readable look.

The second chapter for character creation is largely similar, but introduces the concept of Duty. This is similar to Obligation from Edge of the Empire, but a bit of a departure from it as well. I’m still a little confused by it, and will need to reread the sections in both the player and GM chapters. In Edge obligation is used as a party-wide threshold to determine how notorious/wanted/criminal you are. You could take on more obligation for benefits in game, but the higher the obligation, the more likely some complication would arise during your current objective. Also, high obligation meant it was easier to deal with gangsters and black market merchants, and more difficult to meet with legitimate members of business or governments. Duty is similar, in that you add each PCs numeric value together to find the total Duty value for the party, and that each Duty a PC takes on should inform in-game choices. The difference is, the more Duty you take on, the better. Once the party Duty score reaches 100, your contribution rank goes up by one and your duty resets to 0. Each time you make a significant contribution to the rebellion, your contribution rank increases, symbolizing you rising through the ranks in the rebellion and mechanically it gives the party access to more powerful rebellion resources (more/better/bigger ships, vehicles, weapons). Similar to Obligation, the GM makes a Duty check to see if something related to that character’s Duty will come up this session. New to Age, if Duty is triggered, all PCs gain +1 wounds and the PC whose duty was rolled gains +2. If the GM rolls doubles on the percentile dice (66 for instance) the PCs gain +2 and the triggering PC gains +4. Four additional wounds is a lot, when many characters max out at 12 or so. I don’t know if I like this mechanic or not. We’ll have to see how it plays out.

hangar-bayI like the idea of Obligation and Duty, but in playing Edge, I’ve found it very difficult to integrate Obligation to the narrative. I think Duty can be a really cool aspect of character creation and their place in the Star Wars universe, but how or why they gain more Duty is not abundantly clear. Not only that, but the book mentions using it as a threshold similar to Obligation to judge whether the party would be able to meet with a high-ranking member of the brass, or if the Duty score was too high, whether a neutral governor would risk being seen with the party. The only problem with this is, if you’re an experienced group of rebels with a contribution rank of 4, but a current Duty score of 20, it doesn’t make any narrative sense that you wouldn’t be able to speak with high-profile rebels, or that notorious rebels would be suddenly OK to meet with now that the current score is below 50. I’m not sure how this will integrate in to my games, or if you award duty at the end of a big mission. I’ll have to keep an eye on the forums to see how others are dealing with it.

On to the character creation options! There is some retreading of options here (necessary), but also some new options that would be completely compatible with Edge, just as races in Edge would work for Age. Repeats from the Edge core book are Bothans, Droids, and Humans. They also include Duros which were introduced in the Explorer’s Sourcebook Enter the Unknown. New options include Gran, Ithorian, Mon Calamari, and Sullustan. Gran are apparently pacifists and start with a rank in Charm or Negotiation and thanks to their 3 eyes remove up to two setback dice for perception checks. Ithorians start with a rank in Survival and have a natural attack, the Ithorian Bellow that causes Stun damage with blast 3, but causes the PC 3 strain to use. Mon Calamari start with one rank in Knowledge (Education) and are Amphibious so they can breath and move easily thru water. Sullustans start with a rank in Astrogation and one rank of the Skilled Jockey talent (removes a setback die from Piloting checks).

SWA02-Art05The Careers and Specializations borrow a little bit from Edge and some Edge sourcebooks, but for the most part offer new and diverse choices. Essentially if the Specialization has the same name, it is exactly the same skill tree. In Age the choices are Ace (Driver, Gunner, Pilot), Commander (Commodore, Squadron Leader, Tactician), Diplomat (Ambassador, Agitator, Quartermaster), Engineer (Mechanic, Saboteur, Scientist), Soldier (Commando, Medic, Sharpshooter), Spy (Infiltrator, Scout, Slicer), and a new universal specialization called Recruit. The repeats from Edge are Driver (from Enter the Unknown), Pilot (Smuggler), Mechanic (Technician), Scout (Explorer), and Slicer (Technician). The recruit specialization can be bought in to for any character, and is ideal for social or knowledge specialists as it give them fairly cheap access to combat skills to represent basic rebel training so they aren’t useless in a firefight.

I generally favor the Specializations that blend skills to give a PC a lot of options in play. Some of the new ones I found compelling are Medic (though medicine is actually a career skill for soldier as well) as it allows you to not just be the “cleric” of the party but gives you weapon skills and a few knowledge skills as well. Also Quartermaster is a nice blend of diplomatic and shady “face” skills. Add recruit, and you have a very well-rounded character.

Once you’ve got the party assembled, you choose what Rebellion resources you start out with. The book suggests either a commandeered Lambda-Class shuttle, a squadron of Y-wings (1 for every 2 PCs, they’re the 2-seat variant), or a base of operations on a particular system. If the party chooses the base, they also gain 1,000 credits per PC in starting gear. This last option makes me want to make use of the Suns of Fortune book and start a Corellian rebel cell as a basis for a campaign.

Throughout the book there are a lot of great resources about character development, including a helpful table to roll on for NPC quirks to make them memorable. With the exception of “hates droids” the majority of them could be used for NPCs in any RPG.

SWA02-StarDestroyersThe majority of the equipment is rehashed from Edge, but here again the table for equipment is much easier to read and condensed on to one table for ranged weapons. one for melee. one for armor, and one for all the other gear. The combat chapter is largely the same (again with nicer tables), but the vehicle chapter is much more in line with the original trilogy. You’ll find stats for the T-47 airspeeders (the ones with tow cables that wrap up AT-ATs on Hoth), AT-ATs, cloud cars, AT-STs, X-wings, A-wings, B-wings, Y-wings, TIEs, interceptors, bombers, defenders, shuttles, corvettes, cruisers, dreadnoughts, and even star destoyers! I think ultimately the climax of an Age campaign should be a pitched battle between a Mon Calamari cruiser and an Imperial Star Destroyer.

The Force section is somewhat expanded in this book, including a new universal specialization the Force-Sensitive Emergent. This is a new skill tree that gives access to new talents, and represents the rebellion’s efforts to shelter force-sensitives especially in the wake of Luke’s success at the battle of Yavin. It also introduces two new force powers Enhance and Foresee. Enhance allows PCs to roll a force die along with a skill check to influence the outcome in their favor, or be tempted by the dark side to do so. It also introduces the force leap, which costs a full action at first, but allows for some serious repositioning if the PC invests a lot of XP in it. Also Forsee can be used for vague hints from the GM, as well as a little bump in initiative order. The more XP invested, the more powerful this becomes for not only the PC but his allies as well.

stormtroopersTowards the back of the book, the GM chapter provides a lot of ideas for adventures, as well as tips for running the game and a lot of great advice for running any RPG table. In combination with the Galaxy chapter, there is plenty of adventure seeds for many game sessions. There is also an extensive chapter on the history of the rebellion which can provide a lot of backstory for more casual and even dedicated Star Wars fans. The Adversaries chapter details stats for both Rebels and Imperials, including several variants of Stormtroopers. The adventure at the very end of the book does well to provide a solid structure with plot points, without railroading the characters in to a particular path. It also allows some flexibility to customize the mission to cater to the PCs Duty and personalize it a bit.

Overall, I’m very impressed. If you are a Star Wars fan, and you’ve been on the fence about this system up until now, it’s time to jump off. This is the book you’ve been looking for.

Categories: Adventure, Books, Reviews, Star Wars

Free RPG Day Reviews – Cosmic Patrol and Valiant Universe

July 1, 2014 Comments off

cosmicpatrolOn our fabulous free rpg day, I managed to pick up a few free things I had had my eye on. Namely, Cosmic Patrol and Valiant Universe quick start rules from Catalyst Game Labs. Cosmic Patrol looked very similar to last year’s offering, but in fact has a different adventure in the back, and Catalyst was kind enough to provide a free PDF of last year’s Cosmic Patrol. You can also find the offering from 2012 and blank character sheets on their downloads page.

It was not until I started reading the Valiant quick start that I realized how similar these books are. Even copying text almost word for word in places, as both books essentially use the same system. Characters have dice assigned to their various attributes, the higher the die, the better your character is in that stat. This is very similar to the cortex plus system used in Leverage and Marvel Heroic Roleplaying by Margaret Weis Productions. The main difference is for non-combat checks you roll a d12 + the appropriate stat die for the test vs. 1d20. Combat checks are always opposed rolls between the two combatants without any d20s or d12s. I could see this making combat very fast, and cinematic, but the skill checks seem a bit more arbitrary. For instance, if a Patrolman were to pick a lock (as is the example in the book, actually) he rolls 1d12 + brains (1d8) vs. 1d20. If his 1d12+1d8 beats whatever comes up on the 1d20, he succeeds. If a 19 comes up, that lock is suddenly the most advanced lock possible, if a 2 comes up it basically has a piece of twine holding the door closed. It seems to me like objects in the adventure should have set difficulties, otherwise there is no way to measure how difficult something should be.

ValiantSomething very intriguing about the system is that it encourages rotating the GM-like position (called Lead Narrator) between scenes. This allows the narrator to play as well as run, something that can be challenging in other systems. Both books do specify you can have a designated LN, but are encouraged to pass the book around the table. I’m not sure how this would work out during play, but seems like an interesting concept. Recently, at the end of running the very entertaining Age of Rebellion beginner box, the group started to talk about what we wanted to play next. The usual suspects came up, Pathfinder, Edge of the Empire, DCC, and when I mentioned the stack of unrun DCC modules I own, Mike mentioned, “Don’t you ever want to play DCC?” Which is a fair point. It would be interesting to be able to both run, and play in a meaningful way. Most often GM-run characters can’t participate fully because of GM knowledge about the adventure. I wonder how that plays out in this system.

Overall they are both really interesting adventure starters with a pretty easy system to pick up quickly and run with. Catalyst is also supporting both of these releases with a raft of other free PDF downloads for both Valiant and Cosmic Patrol. I don’t know that I’ll be able to play either for awhile as the current gaming docket is full with Jewel of Yavin for one Star Wars group, and Operation: Shadowpoint for the other. Also I’d like to try Dungeon World at some point. Oh, and some little company called Wizards of the Coast is releasing the basic rules for the latest version of D&D on July 3rd. It’s going to be a great summer for gaming!

Categories: Adventure, DnD, DnDnext, News, Reviews, RPGs, Tips

Post Free RPG day report 2014

June 24, 2014 Comments off

gearedupAfter reading the inevitable post free rpg day post on dispatches from kickassistan, It reminded me of experiences I have had and I wanted to share how it can go down, and what a difference an awesome FLGS makes. My first experience with Free RPG day was in 2011. At the time, the only participating store in this area was mainly a comic book shop where RPGs were available, but clearly not the main focus of the shop. That year I asked if I could run one of the modules if I could find some players, at which point the owner responded, “I guess… how long is that going to take?” Nevermind. I just took my free stuff (Dark Sun 4e adventure, and DCC adventure starter) and left.

The next year, there were rumblings of a new shop opening up where RPGs and boardgames would be the main focus. The Wyvern’s Tale attended that year’s GeekOut, and shortly there after announced the grand opening of the shop would be ON free RPG day. Now we’re talking! I spoke with the owners about running some games during the day, and not only did they enthusiastically agree, they provided the adventure from that day to me a week early so I could make it the best game possible and not just read it cold. WOW! Once the shop opened up, it quickly became apparent we had something special that is worth supporting.

Most game shops dedicate most of their space to merchandise, with maybe a table or two in the back if you are lucky. In this case, the Wyvern’s Tale is in an old house off of a bustling main corridor north of Asheville. The lower floor is all boardgames, RPGs, miniatures, and dice. The upstairs is ALL gaming space. On big game days this means at least 6 or 7 tables in the various rooms running at the same time! With days like free RPG day there are two slots, so it’s like having a mini gaming con in your hometown FLGS. Here is the schedule from this free RPG day: 1st slot – 13th Age, DCC, Pathfinder, Fate, Monsters Monsters. 2nd Slot: Pathfinder, Age of Rebellion, Shadowrun, Lamentations of the Flame Princess. There was advertising in-store and through social media as well as advanced table sign-ups on warhorn to reserve your space at the table.

freerpgday2014This is how it is done, people. True, we benefit from a unique space and have a higher per-capita population of awesome RPG gamers. But people were traveling HOURS to get here and be a part of the event. I think the reason we have such a vibrant gaming scene is thanks to having such a supportive gaming community. That gaming community is fostered and nurtured at places like the Wyvern’s Tale. It encourages people to stay, play, and buy awesome stuff! I have heard the horror stories from the owner about people saying, “This is cheaper on Amazon…” and I know, dear reader, you would never be that guy, but it bears repeating: DON’T BE THAT GUY! Spend an extra dollar or five to keep an awesome business in the community. A place where you can talk about games, share stories about incredible sessions, meet new players, and spread the love of this awesome hobby.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a place like the Wyvern’s Tale in your community, go out and support them. If you are anywhere near Asheville, North Carolina, stop in and see the best gaming store in the region. If you have a store that could use a little community-building, try and get something going. With the cooperation of a business owner who has the vision to build a gaming scene you can meet some great people and have some truly memorable games!

Categories: Adventure, DCCRPG, RPGs, Star Wars

Jewel of Yavin Review: Star Wars Edge of the Empire

June 18, 2014 Comments off

Jewel of Yavin coverThe Jewel of Yavin is the latest adventure module for Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. This is an awesome adventure set in Cloud City on Bespin (home of Lando Calrissian, as you may recall from the movies) and is a classic heist/caper in the vein of Ocean’s 11. It is meant for more experienced characters, as most of the challenges in this are more difficult than in Long Arm of the Hutt or Enter the Unknown, but could be an excellent follow up for those adventures.

Jewel of Yavin will not only be more challenging for the PCs, but it will be more challenging for GMs to prepare as well. While most of the other official material for Edge has been fairly linear in adventure style, this caters to more of a sandbox feel. Most of the adventure will be spent gathering information on the target and NPCs, exploring different areas of cloud city, assembling specialized gear, and preparing for the Cloud City Grand Prix. That is a big first act, and will likely take several sessions. The order of how the PCs want to go about this is entirely up to them, and how they pursue various leads or use different tactics for different problems present a ton of options for the PCs, and a good amount of prep work for the GM. The first act ends with what looks to be an epic Cloud Car race which will likely be very memorable.

The second act is the bidding gala and the heist itself, putting all the PCs preparation in to practice, and it offers a few excellent surprises along the way. This is in the adventure description so I don’t feel like I’m giving too much away by mentioning the goal is to not simply steal the jewel, but to drive up the price by schmoozing the bidders at the auction, then divert those credits and steal the money as well!

SWE09-CloudCarRace-TimothyBenZweifelThe third act is the escape, which of course has it’s own twists and turns, with far reaching consequences based on the party’s actions. I don’t want to give anything away, but I am a huge fan of this adventure! Hopefully Fantasy Flight will come out with at least one more adventure for Edge before devoting all their resources to Age of Rebellion, because these just keep getting better and better. I wouldn’t recommend this as a first adventure with Edge, because it is more complex and would suffer for not being familiar with the system for both players and GMs alike. Luckily, I’ve got two veteran groups lined up who are chomping at the bit to get this heist underway!

If you’re already a fan of Edge, I would definitely recommend buying this one. Just the rich background on Cloud City and it’s locales and creatures is awesome, but this type of caper is exactly where Edge shines: it’s okay to cheer on the thieves, slicers, and smugglers. The line between good and bad is truly blurred and allows for some really awesome role-playing.

Categories: Adventure, Books, Reviews, Star Wars

Home or Away: Pondering the Prudence of Published Adventures

June 9, 2014 Comments off

Book

I debate the owners of our FLGS, The Wyvern’s Tale, as to what is valuable in gaming as a player all the time.  I believe that gaming is best experienced when it comes in the context of a shared experience with as large of a group of people as possible.  That doesn’t mean that you have a table with 15 players, but I appreciate published material, and completing published material.  Declan, the Shop owner, has the opposite opinion: that material generated by the GM has the capability of addressing the players more individually and is therefore more enjoyable and valuable to the player and GM.

You probably have an immediate feeling about this debate and where you stand on the issue.  Let me justify my point of view, and I’ll play devil’s advocate and take Declan’s side too.

The Published Scenario (or Modules, as us Grognards would call them): The Shared Human Experience

Everyone who has gamed for any period of time has at least one or two crazy stories regarding how things went down in a game.  When I went to my first GenCon, I remember talking with different people about Temple of Elemental Evil and how their character handled this or that challenge, and comparing notes.  It was fascinating to me how our experiences were diverse, but also held commonalities. Gamers could relate to those shared experiences, with little additional explanation, and find them personally relevant  It was back then that I realized that there was a lot of value to the published scenarios my group had played over the vast amount of homespun that we had undertaken.

Additionally, there was a certain sense of accomplishment in completing a published scenario — like reading a book or finishing a TV series or the like.  Knowing that you have “done” the module or adventure path is checking something off a list and closing a door on it, but in a way that provides a sense of completion rather than like losing a friend.  We’ve started printing up patches in our group when we finish Paizo’s Adventure Paths, suitable for stitching on your game bag, like a passport or luggage sticker.

And of course, there is some minimal level of quality that goes into a module or scenario that at least ensures that a story is being told, and hopefully makes enough sense for someone to publish it.  While many a wiseass is warming up his keyboard at this statement with choice examples of shite publishing, you have never played ‘homespun’ games with my buddies from high school, where a whole afternoon may have been wasted with what was, in essence, gibberings of madmen.  If it’s published, someone took a few minutes to write it down, which is at the very least an advantage over the things pouring out of someone’s head that may or may not make any sense.  And less cynically, there are some great stories that change and develop published game worlds and illuminate the reader and player as to mysteries of that game world (Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk is a real eye-opener, explaining many of Greyhawk’s mysteries and being a fine adventure revisiting the original Greyhawk Ruins Module, if you get the chance).

Shared experiences in known worlds, telling stories that can be related to friends and gaming colleagues, providing a sense of accomplishment.  This is the merit of playing published material.

The Original Home Game: The Personal Touch

For years I only played games out of my head, with very little published material. I hated published worlds like Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms, in fact, not liking to have to conform to their ideas of what D&D was (note, I am a big fan, nowadays, but back then, wouldn’t touch them).  My own world was a soup of the deities listed in the Deities and Demigods book, coupled with a few of my own.  While sort of a mess, everyone seemed to love what we were doing (though we were much younger then and may have had lower expectations).  Still, the merits behind the Homespun game remain.

Complete Freedom to create, and complete ability to adapt are the primary advantages of the homemade game.  From single scenario to long running Campaign, the GM can craft a story that embraces each players viewpoint and storyline, and build a story around that character and what the character and player want to see happen.  The story can be played out in any which way they prefer, and the unpredictability of player and character can be fully expressed without fear of ‘walking off the map’ or the GM’s overzealous railroading.  Ideally, anyway.

Making a game personal and relevant is one of the best ways to make that game memorable.  While the details may not be something that can be shared with outsiders, sharing is overrated.  How many times have you been cornered by a guy in a game story who wants to tell you about his character for 20 minutes?  See?  Not so great, is it?  What matters is that the player experience is meaningful to them while playing.  The camaraderie at the table is given higher value under this approach, as it should be.

Published Scenarios often tend to be repetitive, lackluster or just endlessly ponderous. The limitations of forcing someone back on track rather than letting them explore the world freely takes away one of the greatest aspects of table top gaming which is the ability to improvise and make decisions that fall outside of the preconfigured parameters of the game. It’s the primary advantage RPG’s have over a video game — Go anywhere, do anything.

Invention, improvisation, and personalized story telling are the greatest assets of the Homespun Game.

The Truth of it?

Surely, somewhere in between is where we have to find the middle ground that exemplifies the sweet spot in gaming.  A published module or adventure path, without personalization, can become dull and drag on (especially since it often takes a year to finish one).  A great GM takes published material and adapts it to his own use.  He inserts side quests and adds in NPC’s that make the story personal, and acknowledges each players desire to see their story told and their needs addressed so that they are made whole and come to life.  Great GM’s are not afraid to go off script, to turn the game on it’s ear, or even to walk away from the plot line entirely if players want to go in a different direction.  Guiding them back into the story or adapting the story to make it work with their new chosen path is where the GM’s craft really comes in.

It’s a fine art.  And even after playing and running for nearly 30 years, it’s one I still struggle to find.  But we have a lot of fun trying, and in the end, that’s the only thing that matters.

I’d like to hear your opinions… What do you think?  And what shared experiences have you had with other gamers that showed you a new approach to the same problem?

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