The Huge Boneyard Seaside Battle: An Offended Desk Story

In the present day, I’m killing one thing like seven rocs with one rock. And due to that, I may name this function mainly something and it’d match my mysterious function classification system.

Okay… that’s a hell of an overstatement.

It’s like this: after my final Desk Story, actually everybody — or no less than two of you — requested me about that mass battle on the sailor’s camp. In the meantime, actually everybody else — or no less than two different completely different yous — requested me concerning the second half-of-the-point I promised to make. And after I dropped a remark in my final article about why Offended ain’t worrying about DBox One and also you shouldn’t both, actually everybody who hadn’t already e-mailed me concerning the earlier two issues — are you sick of this operating joke but — requested me to clarify.

Seems, I can deal with all that s$&% in a single article. One which’s half Easy methods to GM, half Bulls$&%, and all Desk Story. And in contrast to the final Desk Story, this time I’m gonna begin with the Story.

Pull up a chair, children. Let Previous Uncle Offended let you know a narrative. Or let him proceed a narrative, anyway. As a result of he already informed you the start.

As soon as upon a time, some beginner adventurers — PCs all — boarded a ship certain for the a part of the Angryverse the place Offended retains all his classical mythological s$&%: Previous Zethinia. However, on the best way to the Zethinian city of Mitrios, wannabee Poseidon — or somebody — blew his volcanic stack for as-yet-unrevealed causes. Within the volcanic fallout, nonetheless a day from city, the PCs and the crew of the Aster had been pressured to desert ship. They bought caught on a slender stretch of seaside surrounded by rocky bluffs. And, as if that volcanic explosion factor didn’t suck dangerous sufficient, it turned out the seaside was cursed as f$&%.


I can’t clarify the curse as a result of the gamers failed their information checks to know actually any tiny factor about it. Thus, they do not know if the curse is expounded to the volcanic factor or if it’s simply one other instance of the usual fantasy trope whereby actually each nook of the fantasy wilderness is cursed in a single damned means or one other and due to this fact always disgorges monsters on the unwary. They could by no means know. And neither might you.


So it’s a darkish night time. The darkest night time. Thick, volcanic clouds blot out the sky and ash drifts by the air. The occasion’s managed to safe a camp in the midst of the seaside. It’s not a foul camp, actually. The sailors salvaged provides from the ship because it sank. And large boulders make it fairly defensible. It seems like this:

It seems rather a lot higher with the sunshine degree turned down, drifting ash, and campfire lighting results in Fantasy Grounds… belief me.

As soon as everybody’s settled — and bear in mind, the occasion doesn’t know they’re mainly tenting within the yard sandbox of the Poltergeist home right here — as soon as everybody’s settled, the occasion grabbed some torches to scout the perimeter. And to examine one thing out. As a result of, earlier, by the intelligent use of gentle spells and a wizard’s acquainted, the occasion noticed a bunch of issues that regarded like grave markers a pair hundred yards from the campsite. They wished to examine them out. Be certain that they’re not the type of issues that disgorge monsters to assault unwary campers.

The issues that regarded like grave markers? They’re swords. Historic, rusted, rotten, ineffective swords. And spears. Properly, spearheads. All pushed point-down into the seaside. Dozens upon dozens. The occasion wracked their collective brains and made some abysmal Data ability checks and decided… completely f$&%ing nothing.

Properly, not nothing. The wizard was capable of detect a disturbing circulation of necromantic magical power spreading throughout the seaside from the swords because the evil, crimson moon was getting set to rise. The occasion couldn’t see the evil, crimson moon, however Angryverse wizards can really feel the crimson moon as a result of it f$&%s with magical fields the best way sunspots f$&% with cellular phone reception. That’s simply one other loopy factor concerning the Angryverse.


The occasion figured one thing was about to occur. They usually determined they wished to see it when it did. As a result of it concerned necromantic magic and a moon that I’ve repeatedly described as evil and crimson, naturally, the occasion determined floor zero was one of the best place to be when no matter was going to occur occurred. Minutes ticked by, the evil, crimson moon — her identify is Krisma, by the best way — evil, crimson Krisma rose unseen behind the impossibly thick clouds, and… nothing occurred.

Then some skeletons wandered up behind the occasion and stated, “hey, what are you all ?” However they stated it in skeletonese, so it simply appeared like “clackity clack clack clickity clack.”

I’m kidding. The skeletons f$&%ing attacked. They’re skeletons. And since they’re D&D 3.5 skeletons and I rolled three crits in 4 rounds, it was a f$&%ing nightmare. For the gamers. I used to be having a blast. I like undead in D&D 3.5. They’re the worst s$&% to combat; not the best. That’s the way it ought to be.

The occasion dispatched the skeletons and exhausted their meager therapeutic skills to get themselves again from dying to painfully limping, after which they trudged again to camp cursing about “the Offended GM and his f$&%ing crits.” Once they bought near the camp, they heard bother. They couldn’t see what was happening as a result of solely the dwarf may see past the occasion’s torchlight, so that they picked up the tempo.

The occasion wasn’t the one one which had skeleton points. The camp was below assault. And there started the Huge Boneyard Seaside Battle.

The state of affairs was like this: the occasion approached from the southwest. They noticed — once they bought shut sufficient — a bunch of skellies preventing a bunch of sailors. A number of with accidents. The sailors had been preventing with improvised bludgeons — which gave them a minor benefit over the occasion with their fancy swords and knives — however the sailors had been additionally 1st-level commoners. So, yeah.

The gamers rolled initiative to affix the combat already in progress and spent their first spherical fast-slogging by the seaside sand to affix the combat. In the meantime, I saved the combat going between the skeletons and the sailors. Rolling cube behind the display screen, making use of injury, describing outcomes, that type of s$&%.

When the occasion bought shut sufficient, they may hear a second combat raging on the opposite aspect of the camp and out of sight. And as that combat raged, all in the identical initiative order, I described what the occasion may hear occurring from that path.

In different phrases, I had a combat going, spherical by spherical, half hidden by fog-of-war and cover-of-volcanic-nuclear-night, between three PCs, an NPC scholar priest, ten sailors, the ship’s captain, the primary mate, six unarmed skeletons, and 4 skeletons armed with historic swords. Which is why I’m not going to offer you an in depth blow-by-blow. I’ll simply hit the highlights.

On account of some piss-poor die-rolling, the occasion stalled clearing the southern entrance for a bit, however ultimately, they destroyed the final skeleton on the south aspect and dashed throughout the camp to affix the northern skirmish. By the point they bought there, a few sailors had gone down and the captain had joined the combat, raking his dagger uselessly down skeletal ribcages with comical cartoon xylophone noises. The occasion needed to take a while to get into place whereas the skeletons and the sailors and the scholar and Gilligan and the Skipper took turns meting out injury, however ultimately, they cleared the remainder of the skeletons and all fell calm.

And that was the Huge Boneyard Seaside Battle. At the very least, that’s the way it performed out on the gamers’ aspect of the display screen.

Later, in the course of the post-game bulls$&% session, considered one of my gamers stated, “I gotta ask you: how did you really handle that combat? As a result of I wrestle to deal with even one NPC serving to the occasion and also you had two-dozen good guys and dangerous guys preventing on two completely different fronts.”

And like all good however egomaniacal magician who’s torn between bragging about his brilliance and maintaining his secrets and techniques, I requested, with a mischievous smile and a twinkle in my eye, “are you certain you need to know?”

I’m about to disclose my deepest, darkest GMing secret. Similar to I did that night time, two weeks in the past. And I do know that, for a few of you, that secret’s going to break s$%& for you. It’d break the video games you play below different GMs you respect. It’d break every part I’ve ever written. It’d break me. It’s a loaded query.

As soon as, Penn Jilette was requested to clarify how an old-timey duo of radio psychics pulled off an incredible trick. And he stated he’d reveal it, however he additionally stated that it wasn’t going to make anybody really feel good. As a result of magic’s at all times ugly. It’s by no means elegant. It’s by no means great. The key by no means makes you are feeling good. As a result of the key’s a hideous mishmash of magnets and misdirection, of tricked playing cards and trickery, of outright lies and Rube Goldberg nightmare contraptions that don’t have any proper to work in addition to they do.

What I’m about to inform isn’t simply how I ran one huge, complicated combat, it’s additionally how a number of nice GMs do a number of issues that you just want you can do. Possibly even how your GM does the s$&% she or he does. So it would break each GM and each sport ever.


Are you certain you need to know?

How did I handle the Huge Boneyard Seaside Battle?

I didn’t. I f$&%ing didn’t. I made the entire thing up.

I wasn’t actually operating a mass battle. Under no circumstances. I ran the components nearest the PCs; the components the PCs had been immediately concerned with. And I made simply sufficient die rolls and pulled simply sufficient faces and made simply sufficient noises in response to make it appear to be I used to be operating each second of the combat. When a sailor took injury or a skeleton dodged an assault? I made that s$&% up.

“Oh no! Eight Toes is down!”

I f$&%ing killed Eight Toes. Not the cube. Me.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration. As a result of I didn’t actually make every part up. I simply can’t really let you know what s$&% I did make up and what I didn’t. It was extra like this. “The occasion’s been caught on the southern skirmish for some time,” I stated, “I’ll roll some skeleton injury and apply it to Eight Toes.” Or, “I’ll roll this sailor’s assault and injury for actual this time.” Principally, in every spherical of fight, I made one or two actual, precise die rolls — assaults, injury, no matter — and a handful of faux ones. And I rolled means fewer cube than I might have if I’d actually been operating issues by the e-book.

Past that? I used to be simply shifting minis on a map and telling a gripping story.

Hell, that’s nonetheless an exaggeration. As a result of I did far more than that. It simply had nothing to do with the sacred guidelines as written.

Think about this: final time, I informed you I used to be grading the gamers primarily based on the variety of sailors they saved from getting lifeless. And I simply admitted that I killed a sailor by intestine feeling and fiat. Properly, that’s not the entire story.

First, what really occurred was that two sailors bought dropped within the combat. When the combat was over, they had been bleeding out. Which ain’t a factor that NPCs usually get to do. However that gave the PCs an opportunity to assist. They tried. One PC burned a spell and one failed a Heal examine. So, one sailor lived and Eight Toes died.

Second, two sailors had been exactly the appropriate variety of sailors to go down. Why? As a result of two issues occurred to place the sailors in danger. And each needed to do with what the gamers really did.

Although each three sailors and one sailor would even have been exactly the appropriate variety of sailors to go down. Hopefully, by the top of this function, you possibly can wrap your noggin’ round that as a result of I ain’t explaining it additional.

First, the occasion went out scouting and left the sailors to defend the camp themselves. And once they found evil magic was spreading throughout the seaside, the gamers selected to remain the place they had been as a substitute of heading again to the camp. If that they had returned to the camp, they’d have been readily available for the beginning of the Huge Boneyard Seaside Battle as a substitute of coming into the center of it. From outdoors.

Second, the occasion bought held up. Partly due to their crappy die rolls and partly due to the techniques they used — or didn’t use — it took the PCs some time to down the skeletons attacking the southern fringe of the camp and they also didn’t get to the northern skirmish in a short time.

Do not misunderstand me. I didn’t punish the gamers for his or her dangerous selections and unfortunate die rolls. As of late, everybody thinks punishment and consequence are synonyms. They ain’t. If the occasion had fought the southern skirmish otherwise, they could have damaged by quicker. They didn’t combat mistaken. However the combat did take a variety of rounds. That could be a factor that occurred. And it left time for Eight Toes to die.

Likewise, the occasion didn’t make the mistaken selection once they selected to scout or watch the magical nexus level for bother. They figured s$&% was about to go down and that it would threaten the camp they usually determined to face it proper there. It was a superbly fantastic, completely legitimate guess that simply occurred to be the mistaken guess for the state of affairs. And the occasion had incomplete info. Primarily as a result of they will’t roll cube for s$&%.

It wasn’t their fault that they weren’t in one of the best place to guard the sailors, however fault doesn’t matter. They nonetheless weren’t there. I didn’t punish s$&%. I didn’t homicide Eight Toes. I evaluated the participant’s actions and decided the results. That’s my f$&%ing job. A job that’s much more necessary than any rule within the e-book. And I did it far more pretty and even-handedly than a plastic random-number generator would have.

I began the final Desk Story by asserting that the sport’s mechanics matter. That they’re necessary. They usually do. They’re. Now I’m saying I dropped these mechanics the second they bought inconvenient and made a bunch of s$&% up as a substitute. And I did. I do. And I’d do it once more. As a result of it ain’t my job to use guidelines. The principles aren’t my job, they’re my instruments. And I don’t have to make use of them if I don’t want them. Or don’t need them.

Come on! If I’d run the combat I described by the e-book, even with my superb expertise for maintaining a combat flowing, it will have taken without end. And it will have been boring as s$&%. Ninety % of it had nothing to do with the PCs anyway. Till one of many heroes bought to the north aspect of the camp, there was nothing they may do to have an effect on that skirmish. Hell, the PCs had no method to have an effect on the combat that occurred earlier than they bought again to camp both. Do you suppose I’m going to roll dozens of cube to resolve s$&% the gamers can’t f$%&ing change? Hell no I’m not.

Professor Dungeon Craft — or regardless of the hell his identify is — did a fantastic video about this s$&% vis-à-vis the DBox One playtests. A video I want I’d thought to do first. As a result of he stated nothing in that video I wouldn’t myself say. I’m going to embed it right here. Watch it.

Most GMs — particularly those who’ve been at this s$&% for some time — most GMs ignore 90% of the crap within the e-book. Which e-book? Any of them. Choose a system, choose a e-book; one of the best GMs ignore 90% of that bulls$&%. It’s principally ineffective crap. Does it actually f$&%ing matter whether or not I fastidiously calculate the precise DC of a particular Climb examine to be 17 or I simply wing it and say it’s 15? It doesn’t. Hell, it wouldn’t matter if I stated it was 25.

Think about that nobody really reads the foundations anyway. Do you actually suppose most individuals learn all the foundations? Did you? Don’t lie. Have you ever really learn all the foundations for the sport you’re operating from cowl to cowl? Particularly if it’s the newest version of a sport you’ve already been operating for years. That’s why so many individuals didn’t even notice {that a} pure 20 wasn’t an computerized ability success and a crit as well when DBox One threatened to make that the RAW.

In truth, I’ve been secretly coaching you to disregard the foundations for years by writing new guidelines for you. I s$&% you not. Think about these companion NPC guidelines I wrote. Those for fastidiously statting NPC allies and writing quirks and loyalty powers and all that s$&%. Do you observe them? Possibly you probably did. Once I first wrote them. Possibly you constructed each companion NPC fastidiously. However there got here a day — or there’ll — whenever you determined to not hassle absolutely detailing a quirk. Or your gamers recruited an NPC you hadn’t prepped upfront. So that you scribbled some fast notes — or no notes in any respect — and stated, “I’ll deal with this nonetheless I’ve to.” After which, abruptly, you had been simply operating NPC companions.

The actual fact is that, whereas it’s good to have the ability to construct balanced stat blocks for NPCs, the loyalty and persona crap is one thing a GM can simply, you already know, do. It doesn’t want monitoring or mechanics.

I do know that s$&% occurred as a result of a number of you informed me it did. I not too long ago admitted in considered one of my Supporter Stay Chats that I anticipated most of you to get sick of writing detailed stat blocks for companion NPCs and simply begin taking part in companion NPCs proper when you knew what taking part in companions proper regarded like. And in reply, I bought a number of, “you bought me Offended; I completely gave up on the writeups however saved taking part in NPCs” in response.

Many of the techniques I current are me simply making an attempt to write down a scientific method to do the s$%& I simply type of do at my desk with none mechanics. And I’m hoping you’ll use them for a bit and when you notice how this s$&% ought to work, you’ll surrender on the mechanics and simply make the appropriate issues occur at your desk. While you do this, you’re operating the Offended means.

So, do the foundations matter or don’t they? It relies upon. What’s it rely on? It relies upon. There’s simply no straightforward method to reply this s$&%. The principles matter once they do they usually don’t once they don’t and also you’ll know the distinction when you already know the distinction.

However I’ll let you know this: the foundations do matter till you notice they don’t. That’s, following the foundations — those within the e-book and those horny gaming geniuses like me write — following the foundations is an effective method to begin. As a result of that’s the way you learn the way a sport ought to work. The way it ought to really feel. The way it ought to play. So it’s a must to begin by following the foundations.

Finally, although, you be taught the foundations aren’t set in stone. And that your judgment counts for lots. That’s whenever you begin making rulings. And writing your individual guidelines. Home guidelines. Hacks. All that s$&%. It’s a must to do this too. That’s the way you discover ways to tinker with the sport and enhance the expertise. And the way you be taught to belief your judgment. And likewise the way you be taught to take dangers.

After which there comes a day whenever you notice that you just’re at all times there. You’re at all times at your desk. And also you’ve at all times bought your mind. The identical judgment that helped you tinker and hack, the identical judgment you realized to belief, it’s at all times with you. So that you don’t actually need the foundations. The principles are a intermediary. You understand what makes for a great gameplay expertise. You understand it’s about consistency and equity and company and engagement and verisimilitude. You understand it’s about assessing participant actions and making them reside with the results.

And that’s whenever you notice solely a really small variety of the foundations really f$&%ing matter.

In the intervening time, you’ve earned your gamers’ belief. So, whenever you do dump the foundations and make a bunch of s$&% up behind the display screen and also you cowl it with smoke and mirrors and intelligent patter to make it appear to be you’re utilizing the foundations, you can too inform the gamers that that’s precisely what you’re doing. They usually’ll nonetheless come again subsequent week.

Those you really need at your desk will anyway.


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