Twenty Sided Store

A retail store and premier event organizer in Williamsburg Brooklyn that focuses on high quality Board Games, Role Playing Games, and Magic: The Gathering.

Twenty Sided Tales

Reacting to Your Players in a D&D Game

I enjoy attending gaming conventions, I always return home brimming with ideas and thoughts about new games, new game mechanics and new ways to adapt familiar rules systems. This year’s Dreamation, a wonderful little gaming convention in Morristown, NJ, was no different. I had the opportunity to play some excellent games, and I even ran sessions of Numenera, and Monster of the Week (which are available at Twenty Sided, and I highly recommend them!). I also had a unique opportunity to run a freeform Live Action Roleplaying Game (LARP) by Emily Care Boss called In the Arms of the Pack.

Running a LARP was a big deal for me, because it was my first! For those unfamiliar with the genre, in a freeform LARP the Game Master (DM) usually has absolutely no preset plan. This is in contrast to traditional models of tabletop roleplaying games (RPGs), where the assumption is that the DM creates a detailed world and meticulously crafted adventure for players to react and respond to.

So, I walked into the convention room, set up the scenario, and let the players go hog-wild. Occasionally I would nudge the action, whisper suggestions to heighten drama, and frame new scenes. As DM, I had little say in the narrative flow, and the story was driven entirely by the players.

When I got back to the table I decided to test out this technique of freeform LARP with Monster of the Week. I sketched out the barest hint of a setting, painted in a main villain, and slathered on some Non-Player Characters (NPCs) in broad strokes. Details were added when and where the players needed them, often in conversation. One player needed a fancy Faculty House because they made a character who’s a visiting scholar... BAM, done. Another needed a side-mission that their cult assigned to them... What do you know, the nearby museum has some mystical coins that are ripe for…err…acquiring…

You may argue that this only works in rules-lite games, or games in non-convention settings. However, even in games like Numenera - which one might argue is all about players discovering truths about the weird world whose secrets only the DM knows - there is room to modify your game depending on what the players want. In fact, I would argue that this is the most important part of the DM’s job!

For example, when I ran a game of Numenera at the Dreamation Convention, I created an adventure about exploring a village that was built vertically upon a massive Stone Head emerging from the cliff side. I had NPCs, encounters, and locations all planned out. I planned for there to be two big fights, they would occur in a certain order, blah blah... but of course the players wanted to do all kinds of things I had not planned for. They loved the NPC kids I introduced and spent a considerable amount of time wanting to play make-believe with them, instead of exploring an underwater ruin and where I was staging the main fight. In fact, what the players found particularly fun was describing precisely how each of their characters plunged, dove, fell into, or otherwise entered the water that contained aforementioned ruin!

The water-entering descriptions were actually pretty compelling and humorous! It was an absolute blast and the players clearly LOVED interacting with the weird world of Numenera. I made a point to observe what they enjoyed about the game and made adjustments on the fly. For them, trading jibes with the mutant mayor trumped trading blows with dimension-hopping aliens. I cut the first fight short, and changed the location of the main fight into a weird puzzle room because that’s the direction the players took the narrative.

Whatever system you are running, be it super rules-lite or insanely crunchy, it is important to go with the flow. Let yourself be driven by the currents the players create, even if you’ve detailed a course for them, even if it means killing your darlings. It’ll be more fun for them, and probably more fun for you too! Remember the Game Master is a player at the table as well and all roleplaying games are collaborative storytelling experiences at heart.

World Wide Wrestling | Event Recap Session 1

alt Session 1 - 3/1/17
My longtime readers will know that I never miss an opportunity to road trip. So you can bet that when Starr Wrestling Alliance gets on the Countdown to Showdown, I'll be following them like a VW Bus following the Grateful Dead, only with more steel chairs and less "noodling."

This week, Monday Night Mayhem stopped in Orlando, FL, home of Disney, Sea World, and this week, one of the biggest bombshells to hit the wrestling world in years. Rumors had started to swirl that SWA CEO Benjamin Starr would be making an announcement about this year's Ultimate Showdown in Brooklyn. But no-one could've expected that the Boss would strip Nate "The Money" Moore of the SWA title after almost two years of holding the belt. Apparently, Mr. Starr is as fed up with Moore's dirty tricks and flim-flam as we are and decided to do something about it. So as of Monday, SWA has no champion. A new champion will be crowned in Brooklyn at the Ultimate Showdown, and we'll find out who will fight for the title soon.

Monday night also saw action between the cyborg D-Bug and the mysterious Nocturne. Before the match, Nocturne gave a rare and cryptic address to the SWA crowd, railing against the corruption in the company, and promising a reckoning. Could he have known that The Money would be stripped of his title? Can we add clairvoyance to his list of abilities? I don't know. But if he can see the future, he couldn't see the brass knuckles D-Bug used to finish him off and win the match.

The other match of note was between Diane Lowry and Jimmy Steel, a match of red, white, and blues. Diane, with the crowd behind her, mounted a solid offense against the All American Boy and looked to be close to taking the match. But unfortunately for the French Phenom, the match was interrupted by the monstrous Dietrik the Dominator. She still picked up the win, but the word from backstage was that Diane left the building in the back of an ambulance. It would seem that Steel made a deal with Dietrik and the House of Pain. Something tells me he may not like it when Dr. Moreau and his monsters come to collect.

That's it for me from sunny Florida. See you in Raleigh, NC for the next Monday Night Mayhem and the return of Stalwarth Jackson as the Countdown to Showdown continues!

Filed by Janet Hunt for World Wide Wrestling.