Wednesday Wisdom – Top 10 Tips for Running a Game When You’re Short of Inspiration

It’s been a long day here at Red Dice Diaries, so I thought that–whilst Hannah is running her Star Trek game on my desktop upstairs–I’d offer some advice on running a game when your well of creativity has run dry or you’re feeling low in energy.

I don’t like Mondays – Player Tangents

It’s bank holiday Monday here in the UK, and Hannah has some questions about what do to when players “go off the rails” or spin off into a random tanget.

Wednesday Wisdom – Top 10 Tips for Running Your First Session of a New System

It’s Wednesday and we’re offering some tips to make running your first session of a new system go a little smoother.

Wednesday Wisdom – Gaming Online

It’s the middle of the week and–given the current situation worldwide–many people are planning on taking their gaming online.

In this episode Hannah and myself often ten tips for making your online gaming experience as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

Tip Tuesday: Sketch Big then Zoom In

It’s Tip Tuesday here on the Red Dice Diaries blog, and for this post I thought that I’d give you a tip for campaign creation.

A lot of GMs make the mistake of trying to detail out their entire campaign world to the nth degree. What tends to happen with this approach is that it takes a lot of time and can be very frustrating as a lot of the information doesn’t get used or is ignored.

Sketch Big

In order to keep a sense of logic and verisimilitude to your campaign world I wouldn’t recommend just making everything up as you go along, this can lead to contradictions and a patchwork feel. I stead, sketch out the very broad strokes of your setting.

For example: You might decide that there are two kingdoms in your world, in the north and south separated by a mountain range. One is a theocracy lead by a Priest King the other s feudal kingdom ruled by a hereditary monarch.

In this example we’ve got enough detail to give the players the broad strokes of our setting and can expand parts of the setting as needed. But crucially we’ve not exhausted ourselves nor have we boxed ourselves in, there’s plenty of room to incorporate new ideas.

Zoom In

Once you’ve decided where your player party is going to begin the campaign (normally a small settlement or something similar), zoom in and detail that place more thoroughly. The PCs are going to spend their first few session there between dungeons, buying provisions, drinking in taverns, etc it’s worth having a few NPCs, some encounters and other bits and pieces prepared in advance.

You can use this time to determine what you’re going to need to detail out in future, bait your hook with hints about the wider world (using your sketched out world outline) and see which ones the players bite.

Make Notes

When your players bite into one of your baited hooks, use your world outline to improvise more world details, make sure to take notes so that you can portray the world (and any NPCs, locations, etc) consistently.

Quick NPCs for LOTFP

The rules for creating NPCs in LOTFP are fairly streamlined, but I was looking for a method of creating NPCs that were a little more different stat-wise without adding an undue amount of complexity to the game, to do this I’ve drawn on my experiences with the Fate RPG system.

Method for Creating Quick NPC

  • Name your NPC

Don’t agonise over this when you’re trying to make a quick NPC, fire up a random name generator and click a few times until you find a name you like, or take bits out of a couple of names and combine them together, whatever works for you. Here are a few I’ve found useful:

  1. D&D Human Name Generator
  2. There are some great real-world historically inspired name generators available
  3. Dwarf Name Generator
  4. Elf Name Generator
  5. Hobbit Name Generator
  • Choose your NPCs class/race

If your NPC is a human then make them a level 0 Fighter, otherwise make them a level 0 version of the appropriate demi-human class.

  • Fill in your NPCs saving throws, HP, attack bonuses and skills

This information should be available on the class chart that you have chosen so should be easy to find.

  • Give your NPC something extra they are good at

Everything’s been pretty standard in this post so far, here’s where we add a bit extra though, jot down on the NPC’s sheet one or two things that they are good at, when the NPC is required to make a roll for something related to these things add +2 to their roll. This doesn’t have to be their job (although this can be a useful guideline) but it could be based on their physical characteristics or a piece of equipment they have. What they are good at should be fairly specific (‘forging weapons’ is fine, but ‘making stuff’ is a bit too broad) and it should not affect things like combat bonuses or saving throws since these are already covered by the rules although–as ever–it’s your game, so if you want to have an NPC who is a practiced archer, feel free.

If you want to detail the NPC a little further you can also give them one or two things they’re bad at, and give them a -2 penalty when in situations related to them.

And that’s pretty much it, dead simple and it can be done on the fly when you just need to jot down some NPCs one the spur of the moment, or when you want them to have a little bit of extra detailing but without having to add a load of skills or anything like that.