RPT#258 – 12 More Tips For Internet GMing
Roleplaying Tips Weekly Welcomes Editor Scot Newbury!
I’d like to welcome the e-zine’s new editor, Scot Newbury! He’ll be the official victim of my ramblings and is charged with making them fit for public consumption, as well as helping me produce the e-zine in a more reliable and timely manner.
I’ll ask Scot to introduce himself in a future issue. In the meantime, feel free to welcome him and send him feedback:
PC/NPC Personality Profiler
Tips subscriber Jeremy B. Seeley has created a cool Excel tool that helps you profile characters and non-player characters. Jeremy would like to thank GMMastery members Palmer of the Turks, Lorele, Rekres, and Adaen of Bridgewater for their invaluable assistance.
First, download the Excel file:
Next, make your selections in the first worksheet. Then, go to the second worksheet for a printable list of the selections you made to get a complete personality profile.
Recent Hotmail Issues
It seems Hotmail had some issues of some kind recently, as many Hotmail subscribers have reported missing issues since #253.
If you are missing recent issues, you can get them here:
Also, I’d be happy to supply subscribers with a GMail account (while quantities last) if anyone would like to switch.
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Playing over the Internet using ICQ, OpenRPG, or some other Internet chat-based system is similar but not the same as playing across a GM’s screen. A few years ago, I wrote an article with 12 tips specifically for Internet gaming. In this article, I’m adding 12 more tips to make Internet gaming easier and more fun.
- Call A Vote
When players have to quickly decide on a group action, give them 30 seconds or so to type their suggested initial actions, exclamations, questions, and arguments. Expect disorganization, misunderstandings, and contradictions. Scan and pick out sensible actions from their output. Then, construct a simple A, B, or C vote. (If there’s a tie, break it yourself.)
Using their decision, type in what happens next. For example, “The oak door flies open and orcs stream into the room, screaming! What do you do?” “Attack!” “Flee!” “West or north door?”
You can then type: “Vote: (A) attack and try to hold orcs at the west door; (B) fight and retreat south to the door that you entered from or (C) flee south and slam the door behind you. Your vote?”
- Start On TimeStart the game on time, even if only with one player; don’t let laggards hold you up. Practice finding easy ways to add and remove PCs as players arrive and leave. “You arise early but the dwarf grumbles, turns over, and falls asleep again. Rather than wake him, you attach a note to his sleeve that says that you’ve gone ahead to the old fortress.” When the player arrives, you can say, “Amidst the battle, you hear a shout. The dwarf, riding full gallop on his pony, dashes up, leaps from its back, rolls on the ground and comes up with his axe ready.”
- Declare Spells Before The SessionIf your players arrive early, have them declare what spells they’ll be using. That’ll give you a chance to look the spells up and pre-roll effects.
- Use Complete SentencesA chat window is a tiny and restrictive space but words can be magic. Complete sentences will make your game feel like a fantasy novel. They also make your session log much more enjoyable and interesting to read. With practice, they will flow quickly and naturally.
- Use Archaic Words And ApostrophesOdd spellings, strategic misspellings, and overly formal variations of words can provide atmosphere. For most NPCs, sprinkle them lightly, one or two per sentence. For well- educated, old-fashioned, pompous, exotic, or royal NPCs, layer them heavily and consistently.
Here’s a list of unusual words from my campaign:
- colors (flag)
- fortnight (2 weeks)
For example, you could type: “The mage says quietly: ‘Let us camp here tonight. Agreed?’ He looks to the party for an answer.”
Also, use apostrophes to show inscrutable accents, slang, or ignorance. For example, “‘though it’ll take ‘nother ‘our to ‘aul ‘he men up ‘n put ’em in ‘he bill’boats, Cap’n!” (“Although it will take another hour to haul the men up and put them in the billyboats, Captain!”) Striving to understand can be part of the game.
- Choose Good-Looking, Not Good-Sounding, Names
Some names sound good when spoken but look silly when written down. Other names are the opposite. When playing over the Internet, care only about looks, not about pronunciation. Cutting-and-pasting allows complex names to be used with perfect spelling every time. Also, choose names with aesthetic consistency as shown by these names from my campaign:
- Xeleo Saedrin
- Zesura Val
- Rath Zolo
- Verit Gith
- Formian Fellow
- Kragen Wren
- Xithas Sterling
- Mael Goreo
- Yinner Meadowlander
- Uridell Prado
Who cares how these are pronounced?
Similarly, street names in fantasy cities should be interesting-looking and possibly based on a common theme.
In a very superstitious city in my campaign, I have:
- Procession Boulevard
- Prophesy Street
- Fury Row
- Crook Street.
In a guildheld town with frequent street wars, I have:
- Goblinhead Square
- Chance Street
- Quaggoth Prison
- Rot Street
- Sorrow Street
As you can see, integrating fantasy monster names into some names can spark your creativity when you get stuck.
- Assign A Player To Handle MiniaturesSome over-the-Internet software supports miniatures but a scene with 30 orcs can be tedious to set-up. Finding an appropriate picture for an orc can be even more time- consuming than actually using it. Instead of doing it yourself, draft a player to do it.
- Save Logs And E-MailsHalf the fun of a role-playing game is remembering the game. Internet games shine in this respect as every word and action can be saved in a log. Ideally, save three versions of the log; a cleaned-up version without private whispers removed that the players can review immediately, a cleaned- up version with whispers for the archives, and the original.
Use Spell Check on your HTML editor to help you. If you have a PBEM part of your game, collect the e-mails all together into their own HTML file. Finally, don’t be like the rest of us; do all this work after each session and don’t build up a backlog. Even better, before you start the campaign, plan what you want your campaign history to look like after it’s all over.
- Cancel A Session Soon But Not Too SoonIf you play every week, don’t announce that you are going to cancel the session two weeks from now. People don’t read very carefully; some won’t show up next week and others will show up on the week after. Make announcements at or after the session immediately before the cancelled session. If you say that next session is cancelled, nobody will be confused. But, if you say the session after next, the message will inevitably be garbled.
- Be Predictable – Have A Consistent ScheduleShow up to your own sessions. How can you expect other people to show up if you flake out? Play at the same time on the same days of the week or month. Don’t spend energy trying to fit into everybody’s schedules.
- Use Formality And CapitalizationOrnately decorated and formal addresses really liven up letters sent in fantasy games. Why not write, “To Lanival Donraun, Paladin of Donblas, Resident of Fallwell’s Keep, Adventurer?” In my game, the NPC merchant family patriarch signs his letters, “Uridell Prado, Merchant of Skullport, Master of the Fleet, Member of High Council of Skullport Merchantile Interests.” An NPC general even requires his servants to announce him as, “Xarus Valerian, Lord General of Mezzonoborrean, Conqueror of Ztal, Victor at Vedrine and Xoss, Sea Commander of the Black Ships.” Even advertisements are not forbidden, “Zendel Astri, Mage of Sardion, Dreams Interpreted, Curses Removed, Spells Cast.”
Similarly, weird capitalization can provide atmosphere to the letter’s body. For example, “If you refuse the First, then, Second, I propose…” and “…this Noble Ship, the Conqueror, sails…” and “…fear of Disease, Plague, Molds, Rot, Rats, Spoilage, Fungus, Weakness in the Planks…”
Laborious elaborations of titles and categories make letters feel more authentic.
- Expect TurnoverIn the three years of my campaign, I went through three full parties of PCs. Over 30 people showed up for two or more sessions. Over 50 people showed up for at least one session. Over 100 people asked about the game. Every month, one or two people would drop out and, usually, one or two people would join. Sometimes, the party would dwindle to one person or grow to six. (One session had 12, which was way too many!)
To keep your game going, advertise for free on message boards or UseNet periodically to keep your pipeline of players full. Make it easy to join and leave the game. Either skip the upfront PC creation or set-up software so new PCs can be cranked out effortlessly. Only invest more detail in a PC after a player has shown up for a second session.[ You can read Daniel’s original article Internet GM article at http://www.roleplayingtips.com/readissue.php?number=135 ]
Warmachine: Iron Kingdoms World Guide (At Long Last!)
[Johnn: Remember the great Witchfire Trilogy of modules for
D&D 3.0? Well, I’ve been waiting for Privateer Press to
produce their world guide – for years. And finally, it’s
The Iron Kingdoms World Guide fleshes out the campaign
world of western Immoren. Find out who the movers and
shakers are, with hundreds of NPC listings, and explore
Immoren’s history, commerce, industries, politics, and other
- Dealing With The Mage Loose Canon
From: Dr. Ralf Kruytzer
A previous article about “weapon permits” explained how a local ruler could use a weapon permit law to make his city/shire/county a bit safer for both citizens and guards/soldiers.
This article was written together with Dr. Erin D. Smale (thanks again Erin) and deals with the wandering wizard.
In this article I frequently will use the following abbreviations:
- RMW – Real Medieval World, referring to a world like medieval and feudal England
- FMW – Fantasy Medieval World, referring to a fantasy world or setting (e.g. Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk)
Assumptions made about the FMW:
The fist assumption I make is that both magic and hence the wizards exist. The element of magic is as well a very important ingredient of the FMW as the biggest difference between the FMW and RMW.
Second, magic and wizards aren’t so rare that even a low- level wizard is a man of legends; neither are they that common that every hamlet has one and magic has integrated in everyday life. A wizard could be encountered a few times a year; the bigger towns and cities have a wizard at their disposal and everyone in the county knows about one or two famous mages in their shire/county. Furthermore, the merchant-class is aware of half-a-dozen “dirty tricks” wizards who can pull off spells like “Invisibility”, “Fools’ Gold”, and “Charm Person”. They do not know the words and gestures by heart, but they do know about their existence.
Third, the average local ruler/peasant look at adventurers as outlaws who haven’t necessarily done anything wrong yet.
Fourth, the 2nd edition AD&D classes fighter, paladin, ranger, thief, bard, cleric, druid, and wizard exist in the FMW, or there are similar classes.
The loose-cannons of the FMW:
When does a person classify as a loose-cannon? To be a loose-cannon you have to meet two criteria:
- You are capable of inflicting (a huge amount of) damage.
- You haven’t pledged your loyalty to a ruler, a guild, or an organization.
In the FMW the classes paladin, cleric, and druid do not meet the criteria of loose-cannon because these classes pledged their loyalty to a church or deity. When a paladin, cleric, and druid acts in a way that grieves the local ruler than he could complain to a church. The thieves normally are allied to an organization called the thieves’ guild. When a thief with his actions endangers the guild, the guild will make sure that he will get the message. The bard has to be concerned about his reputation, so he isn’t likely to become a loose-cannon.
The two classes that meet both criteria are the wizard and (true) fighter. A “Weapon Permit law” greatly reduces the threat that people pose when they rely on weapons to inflict damage. For more information, I refer to the article about weapon permits I wrote with Dr. Erin D. Smale.
Thinking As The Local Ruler
The reason that a DM sometimes has to think as the local ruler is not to badger or annoy the PCs, nor is it to add some needling details to the game/world. The local ruler is concerned with the safety of his own precious bottom, that of his family and friends, that of his soldiers, and that of the rest of the settlement/shire/county.
It’s something that cannot be ignored. Each local ruler will think about ways to ensure the safety in one’s settlement/shire/county, and therefore a DM has to think about these things too. What are the options of the local ruler to protect the city/shire/county from the devastating powers a wizard can invoke? I will focus on a number of options the local ruler has to protect a city, such as:
- Forbidding the castings of spells within the city limits
- Forbidding wizard the entrance to the city
- Getting a grip on the situation
- Forbidding The Castings Of Spells Within The City Limits
Like the weapon permit law, this kind of regulation doesn’t prevent the casting of spells, it merely ensures that legal actions can be taken after a spell is cast and the caster has been caught. Then there is the question if exceptions are made for certain priests or wizards within the city limits? It is likely that a local ruler grants the privilege to one or two wizards if they pledge loyalty to him and swear to protect his city from other wizards. It is also likely that a local ruler grants the privilege to the clergy of one or two deities.
In my world, Retsinis, the churches have a strong advising role. As both ruler and church own land, they must try to cooperate with each other as much as possible. Both parties profit from a good mutual understanding. If this rule was enforced in the local campaign area, most of the churches would declare that they would obey this law, but that in their point of view that law wasn’t applicable to the land owned by the church. In other words, the clergy will not cast spells within the city limits, unless they’re on the ground owned by their church; there they will cast as many spells as desired.
- Forbidding The Entrance To Wizards
If a ruler chooses this option, one could ask the question, how is he planning to enforce it? As a rule of the thumb: with magic involved there is no way to make any rule or law ‘wizard-proof’. The only thing this option ensures is that if a wizard is caught or exposed within the city limits he’s in trouble.
Both option A and B would seriously restrict the wizard in your campaign. There is, however, a big difference between the DM and the ruler of a county or a city; the ruler isn’t concerned with playability of a game called D&D and the DM is. So the DM must walk a path where he, his players, and the rulers would agree.
- Getting A Grip On The Situation
In the next part of this article I will focus on ‘damage- control’ concerning the wizard and how to use the Mighty Guild of Magic Wielders as a tool for this. As most DMs know, forcing PCs to join a guild might (and probably will) backfire both for the DM and the ruler. Pointing out the advantages for the PCs is a much more favorable way.
One reason for a wizard to become a member of the Mighty Guild of Magic Wielders is that this is the only legal way to get access to certain components. If you take the spell “fireball” from D&D for example, the material component is a small ball of bat guano and sulphur. Why should sulphur be free to get on the market? Why not make it an exclusive product. Who wants sulphur in a medieval setting? An alchemist or a wizard. The alchemist within the city will be a member of the Alchemist Guild, but what about the wizard? If one can only purchase certain items or spell components with the proper authorization and identification (such as a membership of the Mighty Guild of Magic Wielders) why not go with the flow?
A PC wizard doesn’t have to become a member of the Mighty Guild of Magic Wielders, but the cost is buying your components on the black market with higher prices. Do you trust those shady persons to keep quiet about ‘your little secret’? How would the city’s law-enforcers react if they arrest one with a lot of ‘exclusive materials’ and one hasn’t the proper passes?
Make sure as a DM you explain the risk the PC is taking and the possible consequences of his actions when he’s not going with the flow. The PC wizard is still free to do as he or she seems fit. If he wants to take the risk, fine. If he goes with the flow, it’s also fine.
Next to granting or excluding the wizard from certain components, one could do the same for (certain) spells. What about training or teaching? Will the town wizard teach and train our low-level PC wizard if he hasn’t the proper passes? Whatever you think of as an advantage, let there be a work-around. If the town-wizard doesn’t teach to those without passes, maybe the party thief can pull some strings within his guild, and maybe he gets a name of a wizard who is willing to take the risk against the right price.
In general, every legal reduction in the PC’s “workspace” leads to an illegal solution to regain it. Let the PCs role-play getting in touch with the dark side of a city. Every city does have a criminal part. Maybe this improves the role of the party thief as a intermediary between the party and the criminal organization(s).
Bottom line is that both the local ruler and the PCs must gain a profit by the ideas mentioned above. The things described above are not the only way this should be done, it’s merely a couple of ideas how things could be done. As DM, it’s one of your tasks is create a situation where both he and his players have a good time.
Do not use these ideas as an effort to bilk the PCs out of some cash in a campaign, to annoy them with needling details, or even to render them particularly vulnerable. Instead, these ideas about the use of guilds should manifest as yet another set of rules introduced by the local ruler of a local campaign setting, to be followed or ignored at the PCs’ leisure. If its use makes sense amid a dangerous world of monsters, illusions, spellcasters, and evil beings, then assume as a DM that civilized settlements and the authorities who run them would enforce such rules, just to make life a little safer.
A last piece of advice; introduce these rules as early as possible in your campaign, the earlier the better. If you are playing with a group for awhile, but never applied these rules to previous campaigns, _be careful_! It’s likely that your players will whine and complain that their freedom has been reduced. If this happens, decide for yourself if they’re questioning your judgement to introduce this rule because of its effect on the campaign, or because they think they’re being treated unfairly. If it’s the latter, then maybe it isn’t their style of play. If it’s the former, then you and the players should discuss what sort of campaign you want to run. In both cases, it’s important to reach a consensus in which both the DM and the players agree about the campaign’s direction, and if people aren’t having fun, everyone is missing the point of the game.
The discussion forum where this article is discussed at can be found clicking the link below:
- Map Props
From Ralph Hodge Jr.I like to fill my maps with props. I enjoyed the latest tips on Dwarven Forge 3D terrain. I’ve been reading your tips for quite a while and want to contribute.
Some of the most useful map props I’ve bought were 1/2 and 3/4 inch square blocks of wood. I got mine at my local craft supply store (Michael’s). They can be used for stacks of crates in storerooms in any setting (fantasy, sci-fi, or modern). They can double for tables and mark the location of tree trunks. On occasion, my group has used them with a figure on top to represent a flying/levitated PC/NPC. I’ve painted mine OD green, black, and brown, and used model train scale dry-transfer decals to put logos on them (from TNT and the Radioactive symbol to U.S. Mail and Schlitz Beer). They come in handy when my PCs need to sneak past guards, climb above danger, or just need cover during firefights.
My second favorite map prop would be the wedding cake columns I got at the same craft store. They come in different heights and the base is just about perfect if you use a 1-inch grid.
Thanks again Johnn, for your hard work getting these tip out to GMs.
- Terrain and Figure Resources
From: Gene TTwo Xmas’ ago I contemplated getting some cool terrain, initially Dwarven Forge. Short story, I eventually ended up getting some molds from Hirst Arts Castleworks, http://www.hirstarts.com. Anyone interested in making dungeons should check it out.
Furthermore, Bruce Hirst’s site is loaded with information on how to exactly make what he is selling along with tips and articles on how to make great modular terrain. He has created a great resource for terrain making for anyone that needs help getting started or exactly how to make your own rubber molds. As far as storage, I use medium size Tupperware containers for floor and wall sections.
One other tip about figures. Certain hobby sites, like http://www.trollandtoad.com, occasionally sell pre-painted figurines in bulk/packs, like Mage Knight, for a pittance to thin their stock.
I got 75 random figures, everything from dragons, mercenaries, and orcs, to magician types, for under 10 bucks. I’ve bought MageKnight booster packs that sell for 4- 5 dollars for 50 cents. For those who don’t like to or don’t have time to paint, this is a great way to get good cheap figures for table-top games. I subscribe to their newsletter usually, which advertises when such specials are available, as they only occur sporadically.
- 30 Second Quesadillas
From: Ria KennedyHi Johnn,
Here is an idea for a quick hot snack for hungry role- players. It took years to perfect; I have tried making a quesadilla just about every other way, but this is pretty tasty.
- 1 10-inch flour tortilla
- 1/3 cup (1 complete handful) of jack mixed with cheddar cheese (I use Kraft Mexican Style Cheddar Jack Finely Shredded Cheddar & Monterey Jack Cheeses)
- 1/8 t. chili powder (put in palm of hand, sprinkle on)
- Sprinkle of salt
- 12″ length of Saran Wrap
Spread cheese evenly over flat tortilla. Sprinkle with chili powder and salt. Roll up jelly roll style.
Pinching it shut, put on long edge of Saran Wrap (if you put it in the middle, it’s harder to open). Roll up. Tuck ends under and microwave 30-33 seconds until cheese is melted. Carefully unwrap it – it is hot! Season to taste, and serve with sour cream and salsa if desired.