Ask Indignant February 2023 Mailbag

Each every now and then — normally after I’m out of concepts and must crap out some fast content material — I open up my massive ole mailbag and reply some reader questions. If you’d like your query thought-about to be used in a future Ask Indignant column, ship it to games. Preserve it brief and easy, inform me what to name you, and provides me express permission to name you that.

And don’t ship something pressing. I wont to get to do one other of those till April on the earliest.

In your article about your GMing Credo, your first rule was “I’m a Dungeon Grasp and nothing else.” You appropriately famous this meant [nothing] to us and mentioned you can write a full article about it. May you? Fairly please?


I ain’t gonna write that article. It’d be overwrought crap. However I will clarify myself. At the very least, I’ll clarify what I meant after I mentioned what I mentioned.

Partly, it’s a style and setting factor. I like fantasy journey. Romantic, anachro-medieval European fantasy journey. There’s so much to love about it. A variety of the values romanticized within the style made me the person I’m right now. Or at the least the mannequin I attempt to stay as much as.

As Jason “Jay” Derris as soon as mentioned, “I didn’t spend all these years enjoying Dungeons & Dragons with out studying a factor or two about braveness.”

However principally, it’s about how I see TTRPGs and what TTRPGs are about.

TTRPGs aren’t collaborative storytelling experiences. The GM isn’t there to supply a stage or backdrop or sandbox or toybox. The GM is a sport designer. The GM can design video games filled with detailed characters and brimming with dramatic feelings, however the GM’s nonetheless designing video games. The dungeon symbolizes that tenet as a result of a dungeon is simply concerning the gamiest factor you may get in D&D.

TTRPGs are about characters enterprise quests. They’re about heroes leaving the protection of the civilized world to overcome a harmful, chaotic world filled with monsters. To face challenges solely they’ll face and are available again richer and higher for the expertise. All else — factional infighting, court docket intrigues, YA romantic bullshit — that’s all secondary background crap. If it exists in any respect.

Persons are going to learn an excessive amount of into this and lose their damned minds. They’ll suppose I’m saying TTRPGs are ipsy facty dungeon crawls and nothing else counts as actual roleplaying gaming. However persons are silly.

My video games aren’t simply infinite strings of dungeon crawls. The PCs stay wealthy lives in detailed worlds. However these lives contain leaving civilization, plunging into the underworld with objective, and coming again reworked. Time and again.

Aspect notice: I wrote that crap eight years in the past. In rereading, I used to be shocked to see how a lot of it I nonetheless imagine — given I’ve gone by some drastic modifications of late — and the way a lot it informs the True Recreation Mastery collection I’ve simply began.

Actually, there are solely two — and exactly two — private beliefs on that record I now not imagine. See when you can guess which of them I’d dump if I had been writing that record right now. Submit a remark along with your guess.

Some time again, you defined the way you ship details about monsters to your gamers utilizing gargoyles for example. Do you ever gate monster info behind data checks and do you ever give extra info based mostly on increased test outcomes?

Are you speaking concerning the pattern narration I supplied in How I Roll: The Indignant Handbook of Fashion?

That wasn’t about die rolls, however relatively about weaving exposition into the narration. As a result of your gamers ought to by no means need to ask what their characters know or use bullshit non-actions — “I attempt to recall what I do know concerning the creatures” — and your sport shouldn’t grind to a halt as your gamers wrestle to determine how one can share the data they’ve and nobody ought to utter the idiotic phrase metagaming.

The way you resolve what precisely the characters know; that’s as much as you. Me? I exploit Information talent checks on a regular basis. Particularly after I’m operating Dungeons & Dragons v.3.5. Also called D&D Greatest. And I do present extra info for higher outcomes.

I do know the DC essential to determine the creature and recall fundamental details about it. If the participant’s test exceeds that DC by 5 or ten, I present extra detailed, extra helpful info.

And earlier than you ask, no, I don’t put together tables upfront. I simply wing this crap. I’m a Recreation Grasp, not a online game.

My level was I don’t wait for the gamers to ask for such checks. The second a personality’s background Information may give the gamers an edge, I ask for a roll. Or, extra typically, roll it myself behind the display screen. And I don’t describe or narrate jack squat till I do know what the characters’ learn about no matter’s occurring. That manner, my narration consists of the data the characters know.

Thankfully, I’ve bought a True Recreation Mastery lesson on precisely this within the chamber and able to shoot off in your face.

Method again when, in your articles about Flight to Elturel, you mentioned you all the time identify your adventures and campaigns. Do you inform your gamers the identify? What’s the good thing about doing so?

Sure, I do identify my campaigns and adventures. I identify all the things I write or design. A factor will need to have a reputation earlier than I work on it. I don’t know if there’s any profit to it — I think there may be — however I do know I can’t work on a factor that doesn’t have a reputation. That’s simply how I’m.

Additionally, I’m actually dangerous at saving recordsdata and protecting recordsdata organized. So naming a factor — and numbering it and placing it in the proper place — forces me to save lots of stuff in a manner that permits me to search out it once more.

I give my gamers the names of the campaigns they’re enjoying in, however I normally don’t share journey names. I don’t purposely cover them; they simply don’t come up. Generally, I’ll say one thing like, “subsequent week is the ultimate session of The Forsaken Floatilla; I’m trying ahead to killing you all” however that’s simply idle dialog.

I don’t know if there’s any profit to sharing the names or not sharing them, however, once more, I think there is a profit to sharing a marketing campaign identify and I think it’s to do with constructing pleasure and engagement and promoting pitches.

As a facet notice: individuals do plenty of issues with out with the ability to clarify the advantages. And more often than not, the advantages they suppose they’re getting are made up. Almost all the things each human mind does — one thing like 90% of all selections — are computerized habits that the mind rationalizes after the very fact. The mind’s difficult — particularly the inventive, intuitive components — and it’s good at recognizing when issues work even when the aware mind sucks at explaining it.

When utilizing a marketing campaign setting e-book, what info from it do you’ll want to begin a marketing campaign? Do it’s important to memorize your complete e-book?

Holy motherloving crap, no!

If memorizing setting books had been mandatory, no human GM would ever run a marketing campaign in a printed setting. Nobody memorizes 300-page textbooks filled with ineffective, boring-ass expositional fluff. As a result of that’s what’s in there. Boring-ass expositional fluff.

First, the minute you begin operating a sport in Golarion — or no matter — the setting ceases to be Paizo’s Golarion and turns into Anonymous Questioner Who Can’t Observe Easy Directions’ Golarion. The setting’s yours. You don’t need to get it proper. You are able to do something you need to it. And being true to the setting is a dumb, inconceivable purpose as a result of it’s you — the GM operating the sport — that determines whether or not the sport’s any good. The setting has virtually nothing to do with it.

That mentioned, learn the setting e-book as soon as by. Largely. On the very least, skim the entire e-book and browse probably the most fascinating components. Don’t attempt to memorize something. Don’t take detailed notes. Simply let your inventive mind soak the setting in. It would. Even when you don’t comprehend it’s occurring.

As you’re studying — or skimming — do take psychological notice of something to which you say, “man, I need to use that” or “I need my sport to characteristic that location” or no matter. Put little sticky notice flags within the e-book. Once you’re executed, you’ll have a shortlist of the setting’s most fascinating parts, locales, characters, factions, and different random crap.

In the end, you need to determine a technique to begin your sport. A city or kingdom and an concept for a primary journey. This ain’t any completely different from beginning a homebrew marketing campaign. The entire, huge marketing campaign world doesn’t matter. All that issues is the place the PCs begin and what they’re doing in session one.

Reread the stuff you flagged fastidiously. And this time, take some notes. Be aware particular parts, characters, and factors of curiosity round which to construct your first journey. After which construct the primary journey and run the hell out of it.

Your newest article made me suppose: how a lot is definitely assumed that the Recreation Grasp is able to that’s washed in most instructionals? The mechanics allow the PCs to be developed/performed however the GM must be the one to make the precise choices.

TTRPGs are like this: gamers get to resolve what their characters do given the state of affairs the GM describes. And that’s all they get to resolve. The GM decides how these actions play out and what occurs subsequent. The GM decides what conditions come up. And the GM decides what characters the gamers are allowed to construct. The GM is the Grasp of the Recreation.

The foundations are instruments. The GM can — and may — use these instruments to find out how the sport performs out, however the GM can ignore them or change them or remove them. If the GM needs to take the cube out of the sport and resolve for himself how each single motion works out, he can. And if he thinks that’s one of the best ways to run a sport, he ought to just do that.

There are good causes to make use of the principles as written each time attainable, thoughts you. However no GM is required to take action.

I believe RPG books make a giant-ass mistake in even talking to gamers, not to mention inviting them to play with the sport’s guidelines as an alternative of enjoying with the world the GM presents. The gamers can — and may — perceive how most actions get resolved and what their stats imply. They’ll’t make good, strategic choices in any other case. However fashionable video games have too many player-facing guidelines. They usually let the gamers tinker with too many guidelines.

For instance, gamers ought to by no means, ever be allowed to resolve something based mostly purely on a die roll. “It’s possible you’ll resolve to use this bonus after the die is rolled” is bullshit.

Fashionable sport directions are afraid to inform gamers that GMs are in cost and that’s the way it’s alleged to be. And the way it works finest. And that results in spoiled, entitled, egocentric, bratty gamers GMs don’t need to run video games for.

There’s no want to guard gamers from dangerous GMs — nor any want to guard GMs from dangerous gamers — as a result of there has all the time been a easy failsafe that protects everybody from a crappy expertise. It’s that no human being will be pressured to play a sport they don’t need to play and no human being will be pressured to play with somebody they don’t need to play with.

If I don’t need you at my desk, you don’t get to play my sport. For those who don’t need to play my sport, I can’t make you play. Which means, if GMs and gamers need to play collectively, they’ve bought to barter the phrases below which they’ll play. However it additionally means gamers and GMs alike can all the time say, “that’s a deal-breaker; I’m out.”

And that’s one thing youngsters used to be taught in pre-school.

Whilst you have been fairly liberal along with your opinions concerning the varied iterations of D&D — in addition to just a few different D&D-adjacent TTRPGs — I don’t recall any feedback in your half concerning the Previous Faculty Revival (OSR) TTRPGs. I’d be curious to listen to your ideas.

Sufficient clear, concise solutions. It’s time for a rambling, unfocused speech. Maintain on to your butts.

First, I’ve zero legitimate opinions about OSR TTRPGs. I don’t kind opinions of sport methods till I’ve performed or run them for no less than three periods. And I don’t kind good opinions till my tenth or twelfth session. And I ought to simply cease typing right here. However I received’t.

I have learn by a number of OSR TTRPG rulebooks. Largely stuff that does extra than simply file the serial numbers off the oldest editions of D&D. And that’s as a result of I’m a connoisseur of sport mechanics and I’m all the time searching for new concepts. And I’ve been searching for a brand new fantasy journey TTRPG to check out. So I’ve learn stuff like Dungeon Crawl Classics, Fundamental Fantasy Roleplaying Recreation, Adventurer Conqueror King, Worlds With out Quantity, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, 5 Torches Deep, and, most lately, Castles & Crusades. And I’m beginning up a C&C marketing campaign quickly so I’ll have extra to say about that sooner or later.

I’m not purposely avoiding OSR video games thoughts you. Or non-D&D video games. Actually, the largest downside is my lack of time. Since this crap turned my day job, I’ve paradoxically bought manner much less time to play video games. And likewise, I’ve to spend extra free time not gaming as a result of all gaming feels slightly bit like work today. With my gaming time thus restricted, I find yourself again behind the D&D display screen so much as a result of — regardless of my complaints about varied editions — D&D is the one sport that’s like D&D. And even at its worst, I nonetheless like D&D.

Fashionable D&D.

Factor is, I began with D&D again within the late eighties. So BECMI and AD&D 2E had been my video games. And I do know the OSR neighborhood considers these iterations to be “the locations the place all of it went incorrect.” Level is, I don’t have a lot romantic nostalgia for correct OSR fare. And with out that, I’m merely left contemplating OSR video games on their deserves as TTRPGs.

And most OSR video games simply don’t seize me on their deserves.

I imagine — within the core of my GMing being — within the artwork of sport design. And within the GM as sport designer. And that features each mechanical design and situation design. A well-designed sport is a gorgeous factor that brings collectively all the most effective that gameplay and narrative experiences have to supply.

A lot of OSR video games reject the trimmings of contemporary sport design. They lean closely on the concept the GM is the one mechanic a TTRPG actually wants. And plenty of of them reject design class and intuitive mechanical toolsets. And that, by the best way, is what retains me from going again to BECMI or AD&D 2E regardless of my nostalgia. These video games bought so much proper — and Mentzer was a genius about presenting info and changing newbies into sport designer GMs — however they’re janky, kludgy mechanical messes. And that’s solely as a result of the rules of tabletop sport design had been nonetheless evolving. They usually nonetheless are.

Many OSR video games additionally reject the concept of GM as designer of curated gameplay and narrative experiences. And the OSR motion has turn out to be steeped in the concept there’s a sure correct type of OSR. It’s one wherein the GM builds a sandbox and presents it, as is, for the gamers to discover. I’m not saying there’s no place in TTRPGs for that type of sport. In fact, there may be. However I reject the notion that that’s the best relatively than a extremely specialised type of sport that appeals to a specialised group of gamers.

Worlds With out Quantity, for instance, drove me away with its introduction. The e-book began with a protracted speech about how WWN was meant for sandbox play and whereas I may use it for different issues, I shouldn’t and I used to be incorrect, however I might be forgiven. So, again onto the shelf went WWN.

I believe that angle sells actually brief what a True Recreation Grasp is able to. It’s similar to the fashionable D&D angle that the GM is there to construct a stage on which the gamers get to point out off their unique, superb fanfic characters and play out their private dramas with out the GM’s interference.

The purpose is, I’ve but to search out the OSR TTRPG that offers me what I need. I need fashionable mechanics, well-designed, intuitive, and chic. And I need meat. I like tactical fight play. Most gamers do. And, inside cause, I need correct sport stability instruments that permit GMs create rewarding problem progressions while not having a Ph.D. in Recreation and Situation Design. I desire a sport that permits — nay empowers — a GM to design good situations. Ones that enable the gamers the company they need — and deserve from a TTRPG — with out sacrificing the tenets of gameplay development, pacing, narrative design, and all the opposite crap that makes for good video games and good tales.

Proper now, D&D — post-2000 D&D or Pathfinder — remains to be the closest I can get to any of that crap in a solidly designed bundle. And I believe that’s one of many explanation why D&D and Pathfinder promote so properly. They really do come closest to offering most GMs and most gamers a very good expertise. That’s why my for-fun sport of alternative stays D&D v.3.5. And why Castles & Crusades is the OSR sport that did handle to show my fairly little head. As a result of it strikes me as AD&D Second Level Fifth Version. And I solely checked it out as a result of I’ve come to deeply respect Troll Lord Video games’ stance relating to the place of designers and publishers within the gaming neighborhood and its strategy to the OGL Crapshow.

In the long run, although, I in all probability received’t be actually blissful till I’ve simply constructed my very own damned sport.


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