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index cards to help and remind players who aren't that familiar with the system. For example, craft an index card listing their attack options, another index card listing special abilities. Anyways, I just finally got around to using index cards in my game, something I've been wanting to do for a long time. It was a little daunting trying to figure out how to use these things as an actual play aid rather than just another abstraction. I think I finally hit on a good use after the game when I was helping a player make a new character. This player isn't very comfortable with all the rules, so he's always shied away from complicated things. After a series of godly rolls though, I convinced him to give a Thri-Kreen Monk a try (D&D 3.5 edition). To make things simpler for him, I made cards for all his limited use abilities, such as poison, stunning fist, and various psionic abilities, which all explained how to use them and had check boxes for keeping track of how many times he'd used them each day. The index cards allowed me to be more verbose and clear than I could on a character sheet. In addition, by having something tangible sitting in front of, him he's more likely to remember to use them when it's advantageous to do so. I also used two different cards to enumerate his different attack options, which were unusually complicated given his race and class. He has to choose between using unarmed or natural attacks (which took me about a half an hour to figure out myself and I'm still not positive about). Before the next game I might create cards for all the different combat maneuvers you can make during combat, such as charging, grappling, disarming, and give them to all the players. One tends not to remember to use such actions, and so combat can get a bit boring and static. Moving From Socialize To Play Someone wrote a few issues ago they had problems with making the transition from socializing at the beginning of the game to starting the game and getting in-character. Here's what I do. I've got a couple of tools I use to get the players to get focused, stop talking about Lost on TV last night, and pay attention. 1) Theme Music I can't overstate the importance of theme music in my game. It sets the mood, sets the theme, and says to the players, "This game has begun!". Currently, I'm running a World Of Darkness game set in Modern Day America. I'm using Breaking Benjamin's 'So Cold' as the theme song. We've played 19 sessions so far, and it's still running well, and the players love Breaking Benjamin. In a parallel story for one of the players (same setting, same game, different character, lower mortality...) I use Evanescence's "My Immortal." 2) Introductions This takes a little preparation, but is something that adds depth to the world, the story, and everything else. I prepare a written introduction (usually around 600 words) before each session that deals with something else that is happening elsewhere in the game. It doesn't even have to be relevant to the characters - just a little something that illustrates the world is populated by more than just them and the NPCs. Consider it like that little bit you'd get at the beginning of the X-Files just before the credits. Even better, relate it to the story. Or relate it to the characters. Or feature an antagonist. Even if the antagonist is in a bar or eating a burger, you can also follow their inner discourse. I use it to introduce thematic elements in the game as well...just a little something to unify the story and make it feel more complete. I also use it to imply the characters are in danger when they're not. Even more fun.
You'll know (should) which PC has which trait. Make a list of each player's weaknesses (Low Will Saves. Just use modern English and leave it at that. Have roughly 1/3rd of your random encounters play to one of the weaknesses (Gives the other players a chance to aid their ally). Here's how you get the best out of 'Winging it' (I hate that term. 1 Weaknesses. I prefer Spontaneous Adventure Creation). the get the satisfaction about their 'guess' being right. is the Rogue a master of Stealth or a Trap-Guru?). Low AC. copy that list into 2 columns. 1. Now. just leave little clues/hints that seem random. if you did sound like a real medieval person. My companions and I discovered a tribe of vile goblins massing and they threaten to overrun our fair town! I implore you. their paranoid little minds can come up with conspiracy theories that's make Fox Mulder blink. Eventually you'll hit on something and that which doesn't fit was just a 'Random Encounter' as opposed to the 'Plot Encounters'.. Then. my good guardsman. Acting DM: The guard stops you and asks you where you're going in such a hurry. Low Reflex-3 for example). make me a Diplomacy check.Playing vs.. in fact. Low Charisma. I have a beginning and an end in mind. complex. 2. "Halt! Where are you going in such a hurry?" Me: "Pardon me. (PS. Have 1/3rd be whatever you darn well please. Remember to listen to the players. etc). Have roughly 1/3rd of your random encounters play to one of the strengths listed (Gives that player/s a chance to shine). Me: I explain to him that I have urgent news for the Duke . But how they get there is a bunch of random encounters where I thread together some commonalities on the fly. leave Ye Olde Butchered Englishe at home. Just make a note of how many PC's have that particular Trait. The point is to create an encounter sheet which appears geared expressly to your group. . but don't include the PC with it. one Strengths. (High AC-2. Bow Master. but wait for a theme to develop (it'll come). nobody else at the table would be able to understand you. Winging It I wing it a lot (sort of).an army of goblins are gathered and threaten to destroy the town. you aren't going to sound anything like a real medieval person. You'd be surprised how often this manages to resemble some tangled. Make a list of each player's strengths (Is the Fighter a up-front tank. (Plus. but that's not the point. let me be on my way!" DM: Make a Diplomacy check I prefer the first one! For the love of God. If you have done your job right. DM: Okay. Don't tell them). Then. DM: The guard approaches you and motions for you to stop. and that it's of the utmost importance that he lets me pass. design of such subtlety and vision that players will wonder how you managed to do it. I bear an urgent message for the Duke. Unless you've studied medieval literature.
you could create a scenario in which the PCs are tasked with infiltrating a castle and killing the evil wizard who rules it. consider what might happen if the PCs try to talk. but as a sadistic scientist. For each encounter. Afterwards.. Any time it seems like they're having too easy a time of it. not as a novelist or adjudicator. of course). If I still have got time left I start making more detailed descriptions of the maps and NPCs. Descriptions I have got in my head anyway. Dumb analogy.. I am quite good at predicting their general actions. because I tend to . I do not look at my notes at all and pretty much go with the flow of the game. and put together a bunch of encounters (both combat and non-combat) that you can throw at the PCs whenever it's appropriate. NPCs/monsters. The castle has a network of caves underneath it filled with all manner of aberrations and demons. If you write the adventure yourself. the result of the wizard's experiments in summoning and transmutation. I spend ALOT of time prepping for any possible outcome. should spend some time preparing their adventures to even get better adventures. don't script out a rigid plotline.Spontaneous Adventure Creation is an Art Form that takes a lot of practice to perfect. the caves beneath have no such defenses. The castle itself is guarded by the wizard's mind-controlled warriors. Let them come up with a plan and put it into action. the PCs can't deviate from it. If you wing it. This does not mean that I write everything down. when I look at my notes. By way of example. try to tailor it to some aspect of your group. maps. I like to think of running a session as taking a test. My second suggestion: When you write the adventure. many times it's completely different than what actually happened during the game. I study before hand (game prep). My first suggestion is this: Throw out the module. You get the point. I agree with him. The only thing I refer to are the stats. lob one of your encounters at them. make up a general scenario. Add a few other interesting items. plot and summary. And don't figure out how the PCs are going to get into the castle. Have some monster encounters for the PCs to fight in the caves. and what might happen if they try to fight. you'll be more comfortable tweaking it on the fly. read over the notes. though. But (when done well) gives the illusion (and effect) of having of spent hours and hours and hours crafting encounter after encounter after NPC after Adventure and Plot Hook after. however. But here is the key: I prepared (studied) ahead of time. In other words. It might help to think of yourself. you can assume that he's warded his castle against most forms of magical ingress *cough*teleportation*cough*. So during the game.. Being as the bad guy is a wizard. most of the time I make the maps. by writing notes. I know. That's their job. even dialogue (like a Q&A type deal). If you don't have a plan to begin with. but it works for me Hope this helps! Personally I am not too good at winging it. but to poke the PCs with pointy sticks and see how they react. like an imprisoned devil that the PCs can talk to and maybe get help from (at a price.. But when it comes time to run the game. I put away all my papers (no cheating while taking the test!). While they do surprise me when it comes to details. and created my own "world" in my head that I was prepared to run the game (take the test). Monte Cook once said that DMs who are good at making adventures on the fly. which are printed on index cards anyway. and a map if I have one. Your goal is not to determine the outcome. encounters. Then make up a bunch of encounters. and a few warriors who've slipped free of the wizard's domination. Instead.. and some mind-controlled warrior encounters for them to fight in the castle. As a DM I make sure I know my players and their characters. Don't plan out exactly where to put the encounters.
I have never completely winged an adventure and knowing myself I will never do so either. In the end. Looking stuff up in notes sucks. But when I sit down and we start playing. It seems like when I'm sitting down trying to come up with ideas before hand they are all really bland. It's strange. And heaven forbid I try to use a published adventure. my imagination goes into over-drive and everything just seems more life-like. It's the general consensus among my players that they have more fun when I have ideas but haven't written anything down. .muse on adventures while riding to and from work. the more time I spend preparing an adventure the more fun they tend to be.
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