Cryptochecks

The party has arrived at a massive stone arch, through which only darkness can be viewed. A single fire rune appears on the keystone of the arch. Hemlock (Rogue): Before we step through the arch, I check for traps. GM: Roll an Investigation check. Hemlock rolls a natural 1. The party groans. GM: You are […]

Read More Cryptochecks

Fracture Your God

You can jazz up the diversity of clerics in your world without adding pages and pages of gods — if you allow for multiple (even conflicting!) belief systems about the deities you already have. Deities in fantasy RPGs are often sketched out in rigid, one-note ways. Imagine for a moment the typical campaign-next-door. Its storm god Thorzeus is Chaotic Good, his […]

Read More Fracture Your God

The Myth of Meta-Gaming

With each new edition of a role-playing game, the hobby gains new players, and that’s a good thing. But each new crop breathes new life into old arguments.  Since 5th edition, I’ve been seeing, in particular, a resurgence in comments about the evils of meta-gaming, often from game masters who say they won’t tolerate it, […]

Read More The Myth of Meta-Gaming

Breakthroughs & Setbacks: How and Why We Should Bring Back Skill Challenges. Kind of.

Some skill checks answer simple, immediate, yes/no questions. Do I see that goblin hiding in the bushes? A 15 — why, yes, I do. A simple yes/no die roll is appropriate and satisfying for those situations. But a single check doesn’t always feel right for other situations, particularly those involving ongoing, progressive challenges in which […]

Read More Breakthroughs & Setbacks: How and Why We Should Bring Back Skill Challenges. Kind of.

Ruin Logic

What should I put in my ruin? a GM asks on Facebook. The question is smarter than it might appear. If you are aiming for an immersive, coherent world and an exciting adventure, it can be tough to stock a ruin properly. Throw stuff in randomly and you might find yourself on the defensive or retconning […]

Read More Ruin Logic

Gaining an Edge in the Great Bazaar, Part 3: Avoiding Trouble

Note: The text below continues from a previous article and its sequel. This installment constitutes Part III in the sequence. Avoiding Trouble There are four dangers adventurers should worry about while shopping for unusual equipment in a city: drawing the attention of thieves, drawing the attention of authorities, drawing the attention of those inclined to manipulate them into serving […]

Read More Gaining an Edge in the Great Bazaar, Part 3: Avoiding Trouble

Reopening the Tavern Scene

If you flip through enough GM guidance, you see repeated disdain for one fantasy-gaming trope in particular: the tavern opening. You know the one: You’re all sitting in a bar full of tough mercenaries, enjoying your ale, when a stranger in a cowled robe approaches you. “Mighty adventurers! The people I represent are in dire need […]

Read More Reopening the Tavern Scene

Blending Scenarios & Reading Recommendations (Part 6 of the “Low-Prep, Reusable Scenarios” Series)

Blending Approaches In this series on low-prep, reusable scenarios, I have described five fun types of low-stress campaign. However, so far I’ve tackled each of them one at a time, without looking at how they might be combined. Let’s remedy that: All of these approaches can be blended. You can also lead a party from one scenario to the […]

Read More Blending Scenarios & Reading Recommendations (Part 6 of the “Low-Prep, Reusable Scenarios” Series)