I’ve been busy this week curating the entirety of the Internet, seeking out the most interesting content in roleplaying games for your perusal. On a side note, I’d really appreciate it if no one posted anything new online for a week or so; I just got done reading it all, and would like some time off.
In today’s installment of our links roundup, we’ll talk about megadungeons, power and balance, trolls, and story pacing.
I Want to Play a Megadungeon
I’ve never said that before. I know that they’ve become all the rage with the new focus on old gaming systems, but every time I read about them, I hear nothing but drudgery and “the numbers game” as opposed to the story.
And then I saw Keith Davies’ series on megadungeon design. He starts his design with a node-based design of concepts and connections; in other words, his megadungeon is a vehicle for telling a story. Sure, once engaged, it’s likely to be heavy on the numbers–but the underground ecology he’s developed with a small handful of circles and lines is just damn compelling.
For an improv GM, this is the kind of planning I can get in to.
- Node-Based Megadungeon Design from In My Campaign
- Node-Based Megadungeon: Drilling Deeper from In My Campaign
- Node-Based Megadungeon: Clockwork Hell from In My Campaign
- Node-Based Megadungeon: The Abandoned Tower from In My Campaign
- Plotting for Flexibility: How GMs can tell dramatic stories without knowing the plot outline ahead of time from Intwischa
Power and Balance: Who Cares?
Longtime readers will remember that I don’t really care very much about balance. Steve Winter explores this concept more maturely than I have on Kobold Quarterly. I largely agree with his conclusions: balance is about what the players collaboratively bring to the story, rather than some obscure calculus conducted by great and mysterious game designers somewhere near Seattle.
Earlier in the week, Steve reflected on a topic that I now see as very related but would have never connected myself. Steve describes the games of yore that punish players for character death by forcing them to start from scratch (or at least from a weakened position). Honestly, I’ve not run a game like this in a long time because the only brain that perceived it as fair was my pre-pubescant one. Reading Steve’s thoughts on this puts my brain in a veritable megadungeon of conundrum, though… I actually would like to see a “power imbalanced” game, and relish the challenge for the GM to develop a compelling story for all involved!
- Howling Tower: Taking Players Outside Their Comfort Zones from Kobold Quarterly
- Howling Tower: Power Fluctuations from Kobold Quarterly
- Centering My Geek: One Player’s Definition of Balance from Intwischa
- Game Balance: Power and Simplicity from Intwischa
Troll, get thee behind me!
Trolls popped up in my RSS feed in two prominent ways this week. First, Troll and Toad is selling a handful of books for the Agone RPG for about $10 shipped. Thanks to the From the Ashes blog for calling my attention to this; Agone looks like a sweet game!
Second, Ben at Troll and Toad is doing a 24 hour game-a-thon fundraiser for Boston Children’s Hospital. What’s cool about this is that, beyond supporting a charity, Ben is someone with a family that has directly benefited from the work of the children’s hospital. Read more about his story, or just support the charity. Ben’s hit his goal, but my hunch is that funding him beyond his goal will have a far more significant impact than kicking a few extra bucks to the next cool Kickstarter that rolls around.
- A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That from From the Ashes
- Agone 5 Book RPG Lot (Agone) Multisim Publishing from eBay
- Agone from RPG Geek (apologies if there’s an official site; I couldn’t find it)
- Extra Life! Play Games, Heal Kids – I’m doing this and I could really use your help and support. from Troll and Toad
- Donate Securely Here at Extra Life: Play Games, Heal Kids
Die Young, Young Man
We’ve talked about it before, but almost every gamer has a host of stories under his or her at that never saw an end. Walt at Gnome Stew proposes a bold way to address this that reminded me of A.E. Houseman’s poem–you know, the only A.E. Houseman poem most people know. (I’ll link to it in the footer.) I was discussing it with my wife, and she said it reminded her of the decision to end Seinfeld. Potato, potato. (That doesn’t really work when you write it, does it?)
Walt goes beyond the simple benefit of ending on a high note to reflect several advantages of using short “mini-series” style bursts to tell stories, rather than the “mega campaign.” My gaming group has been talking about the appropriate length of games as we brainstorm ways to rotate the GM chair to a group that is 83% GMs, and reading this article makes me wonder whether my gut assumption of 6-8 games for an arc is actually too long.
- The Recurring Series from Gnome Stew
- Good Fences: Setting Boundaries in an RPG Campaign from Intwischa
I’d love to hear your thoughts on appropriate arc length (try not to make that Freudian), trolls, power, balance, or megadungeons in the comments!