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4 Ways to Merge Players and Play Styles

Image_Portfolio_104_Fantasy Jason Walton 57As a game designer most of my time is spent editing, reading, and writing; what little remains is for playtesting. One of the things that comes up often with gaming sessions that see so many different players is a matter of expectations—some players are prepared for a world to be opened up in front of them, and others are scions of modules, or entirely new to the concept of tabletop gaming.

Roleplaying is an amazing experience, but some folks have a rockier entry into it than others—be that to the whole concept of assuming the role of a fictional persona, adjusting to a new gaming system or a joining a new group of players.

There are a few tricks to make this easier on the beleaguered GM (not all of which are here; you are the GM, you can bring down the iron hand and send down royal decrees and what have you), but the best thing to do is just be smart, respectful and logical about it: talk directly (separately) to the frustrated player and get an idea of where they are at.

1) Notes
If you’re keen to the divide in player styles before the session starts, this is an easier plan to implement. Even on the fly, it’s not hard to do and if you’re up for a bit of spy games, go for it. Either way, use the plot or NPCs to inform the party member in question about whatever it is they’re looking for, be it the adventure route they expect or the means to break into the world with some freedom to roam.

fashion-middle-ages-72) Extra Checks
Struggling in the sea of freedom can be a real challenge sometimes, especially for folks new to the game—juggling different player styles isn’t easy if you’ve got a mixed group. If a seasoned veteran is having trouble giving enough of the spotlight to the newbie, give the latter a chance to wander around and sprinkle them with checks (preferably skills, but perhaps attributes if you need to) to get them to somewhere the rest of the group can enjoy as well.

3) Maps
This is the primary means I go about handling this in my games; I let the PCs know the lay of the land and subtly push them into this or that direction via geography that fits into the plot. The closer they move towards a locale, the more I reveal about it and the environs. Getting down into the valley, for instance, the party sees the ruins of an old fortress down by the beach—something previously unknown about and definitely drawing attention.

4) The “Subconscious” GM Slip
If you can’t keep a straight face or always lose at poker, skip this one entirely—you have to be able to bluff in real life for this to work out.

Academic Town-Color-FLet it seem like you accidentally let slip a secret about the game as you go through a routine description. Last week (and my Thursday group won’t be looking at this before game tonight, so I’m not overly concerned of them knowing) when investigating a damaged farmhouse, I “mistakenly”said that it might have been a dinosaur that did the damage, after dropping several mentions of a dragon being complicit (as far as the villagers knew). 

Of course there was jeering but I saw the change in body language as soon as the table settled—the players sat down as a united group, ready to delve into the game full bore regardless of their preference in approaching it.

Remember, the goal of the game is always to have fun! If a player keeps having a truly tough time with getting dropped into a sandbox or stuck on a railroad, be adaptive, fair, and accommodating (to a point, anyway). The tips above are a good way to go about dealing with the problems that arise from conflicting player styles, but being direct and understanding is the best thing to do!

 

 

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WHAT?!?! – 4 Tips on Managing Player Frustration

Image_Portfolio_101_Fantasy Jason Walton 10Mischievous Meadows is about magical items; the adventurers are going to temporarily and sometimes permanently lose many of their treasured goods! In most games, these are essential resources for the PCs and a group may be less than pleased when their potions, wondrous items, rings and the like are pilfered away from them.

Sometimes however, the story calls for players to be denied of resources!
Naturally, this is going to upset some folks and any GM may find the response to one of these game sessions to be less than encouraging.

1. Temporary Compensation
As in the case of the biddlywink, the GM can dole back some of the resources removed and when doing so, give them some oomph to compensate for the loss. It’s a bit of an admission on your part but it’ll net some interest by making it clear that this isn’t a simple theft of resources, it has a greater purpose.

dragon-art-22. Intrinsic Rewards
Speaking of a greater purpose, let’s talk about expendable resources. This is essentially a trade-off: resources of one kind (typically gold) for greater access to other resources (experience). In some cases this can be very general, like potions but there are also the specific ones: arrows of slaying come to mind. This is a valid example to mention if a group throws up their arms—point out the precedent if things get too uppity.

3. Complementary Elements
Hide something that can be used to craft a stronger suit of armor in the corpse of the invisible, giant, advanced rust monster that ate away some +2 full-plate. After felling the biddlywink tree, maybe the adventurers find arcane components which can be used to craft a ring of protection that allows the creator to treat their caster level as four levels higher to get back the one the original biddlywink ate! Perhaps the knowledge garnered from their bizarre biological processes grants insight into a new spell or access to a disparate prestige class?
At its heart this is another resource trade, and the GM should be innovative in how they implement it.

4. Call Rank
The GM is also the ultimate arbiter of the story, and somsorcereretimes it doesn’t hurt to remind folks of that. If the group is getting really upset about being taken for a bit of a ride, assure them that you’re not just randomly stealing from them; greater things are in store for those with faith.

 
Do you have a contribution or idea for Meta Thursdays?  Send us your ideas (after reading the submission guidelines) to submit(at)adventureaweek.com with “Meta Thursday” in the subject line!

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Cultus Sanguineus – A Chase in Mohkba!

Mohkba Alleyway

Synopsis
Count Krev Ragata rushes through the narrow streets in one of the less wealthy areas of Mohkba having just met with several different black market merchants and keen to quickly reach his next destination. Ne’er-do-wells in the city have something else in mind, however, and a group of them ambush the noble directly in front of the adventurers, wrestling away several prized items as they stab him in the stomach with a wicked looking dagger coated in poison.

During the struggle Count Ragata yells, “the countess requires these for the ball! You cannot have them!”, before falling limp and unconscious. One of the muggers turns to see the job finished while his compatriots bound down the alleyway, making their escape quickly in frenzied dashes.

 

A Chase Through Mohkba!

As the party (4-6 adventurers of 8th-9th level) travels the less savory backstreets of Mohkba they suddenly hear shouting and commotion from a narrow, shadowed alleyway up ahead.

A giant of a man stands over a crumpled form at his feet—behind him, two other men are starting to run down the alleyway away from you. The inert form on the ground trembles and with great effort rises his hand and points at the man clad in flashy clothes and shouts: “Stop him, he has…”, but a precise strike from the brute cuts his sentence short. The large man raises his fist again, this time with the intention to quiet his victim permanently.

Hrolff runs at full speed to get the items he carries away from the scene. Vasiliev will stop and cover Hrolffs escape with spells and scrolls, while Eignar physically engages the party, to hinder the characters from pursuing. Hrolff reaches a large street in 1d4+2 rounds, where his tracks are lost in the crowd. Should the party almost catch up to him he will duck down another alleyway where Exsanguinator manifests his will (see Alleyway of Blood from the February 5th meal for the AaWBlog!)

The alleyway is 100 feet long by 10 feet wide (its sides are from 10 feet high to 25 feet high, varying as often as the motley architecture of the homes here) and at the end it connects to the veritable maze of narrow corridors that make up Mohkba’s infamous lower class quarter, providing plenty of alleyways to pursue Hrolff through—if the party gets past Eignar and Vasiliev.

Eignar Ravnirson CR 9

Image_Portfolio_1.13_Fantasy Rudolf Montemayor 05 XP 6,400
Male human monk (tetori) 9/barbarian 1
NE Large humanoid (human)
Init +1; Perception +14
DEFENSE
AC 17, touch 17, flat-footed 13 (+1 Dex, +1 dodge, +2 monk, +2 shield, +1 Wis)
hp 81 (9d8+1d12+29)
Fort +10, Ref +7, Will +7; +2 vs enchantments
Immune disease; DR 10/adamantine (currently under the effects of stoneskin; 62 hp left)
OFFENSE
Speed 60 ft.
Melee unarmed +11/+6 (2d8+5)
Ranged tanglefoot bags +7/+2 ranged touch (entangle and half speed for 2d4 rounds; Reflex DC 15 or glued to floor, DC 17 Strength or 15 slashing damage to regain movement; Range 10 ft.)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
Special Attacks stunning fist 9/day (Fort DC 15; fatigue or stun 1 round or sicken 1 minute)
STATISTICS
Str 20, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 10
Base Atk +7; CMB +16 (+20 grapple); CMD 23 (30 vs. grapple)
Feats Dodge, Rapid Grappler, Snapping Turtle Clutch, Snapping Turtle Shell, Snapping Turtle Style; Improved Grapple, Stunning Pin, Greater Grapple
Skills Acrobatics +14, Climb +18, Perception +14, Sense Motive +14
Languages Common, Klavek, Vikmordere
SQ Break free, counter-grappler, evasion, fast movement, graceful grappler, inescapable grasp, ki pool (magic, cold iron, silver; 5 points), maneuver training, permanent enlarge person, rage (6 rounds/day), purity of body, still mind, unarmed strike
Gear 5 tanglefoot bags, potion of invisibility, potion of negate aroma, potion of silence, sanguine antidote (the magical poison afflicting Count Ragata does not respond to mundane cures)
RAGING STATISTICS
AC 17, touch 15, flat-footed 11; hp 96; Fort +12, Will 9; +11 vs enchantments
Melee unarmed +13/+8 (2d8+7)
CMB +18 (+22 grapple); CMD 25 (32 vs. grapple)
TACTICS
Eignar uses his grappling skills to stall the party’s pursuit of Hrolff and Vasiliev—he will not hand over the antidote he carries voluntarily.
As the party tries to revive the count, Eignar taunts them from a distance and tries to goad them into rushing him by loudly yelling, “he is as good as dead now, your magics are no match for the power of my master!”, while holding up a flask filled with cyan liquid before slipping it into his pocket and assuming a fighting stance.

 

Vasiliev Dovrovich CR 7

Image_Portfolio_1.13_Fantasy Rudolf Montemayor 01 XP 3,200
Human bard 8
NE Medium humanoid (human)
Init +7; Perception +11
DEFENSE
AC 17, touch 15, flat-footed 13 (+2 armor, +1 deflection, +3 Dex, +1 Dodge)
hp 63 (8d8+24)
Fort +3, Ref +9, Will +6; +4 vs. bardic performance, language-dependent, and sonic
OFFENSE
Speed 30 ft.
Melee rapier +9/+4 (1d6-1, Crit 18-20/x2)
Ranged shortbow +9/+4 (1d6, Crit x3)
Special Attacks bardic performance 21 rounds/day (move action; countersong, dirge of doom, distraction, fascinate, inspire competence +3, inspire courage +2, suggestion)
Bard Spells Known (CL 8th; concentration +13)
3rd (2/day)—deep slumber (DC 18), dispel magic (DC 18), displacement
2nd (3/day)—eagle’s splendor, hold person (DC 17), invisibility, mirror image
1st (5/day)—charm person (DC 16), comprehend languages, disguise self, expeditious retreat, lesser confusion (DC 16)
0th—daze, detect magic, light, prestidigitation, read magic, resistance
STATISTICS
Str 8, Dex 16, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 20
Base Atk +6/+1; CMB +5; CMD 18
Feats Dodge, Improved Initiative, Magical Aptitude, Skill Focus (Use Magic Device), Weapon Finesse (rapier)
Skills Acrobatics +14, Knowledge (history) +13, Knowledge (local) +13, Perception +11, Perform (mime) +14, Perform (wind) +14, Spellcraft +15, Stealth +14, Use Magic Device +20
Languages Common, Klavek, Vikmodere
SQ bardic knowledge +4, lore master 1/day, versatile performance, well-versed
Gear bracers of armor +2, ring of protection +1, scroll of dispel magic (3 total at CL 9th), satchel with papers, a mask of diplomacy +1* (stolen from Count Ragata)
*This item is actually the mask of thirst, but only members of the Cultus Sanguineus are able to identify it as such.
BASE STATISTICS
Without eagle’s splendor, Vasiliev's statistics are Bard Spells Known reduce spell DCs by 2, concentration +11; Cha 16; Skills Use Magic Device +18.
TACTICS
Vasiliev is under the effect of eagles splendor, displacement and mirror image (4 images) when the party shows up. Displacement lasts 6 more rounds. When the party arrives he takes up position in cover behind some barrels down the alley in the same direction Hrolff fled. Vasiliev intends to cover Hrolff’s escape alongside Eignar, using use his scrolls and spells to keep the party from mounting an effective chase until Hrolff is gone—Vasiliev then leaves Eignar and make his own escape with the help of his invisibility spell.

 

Hrolff Angirsson CR 7

XP 2,400
Human monk 7/barbarian 1
NE Medium humanoid (human)
Init +4; Perception +8
DEFENSE
AC 18, touch 18, flat-footed 13 (+4 Dexterity, +1 dodge, +1 monk, +2 Wisdom)
hp 58 (7d8+1d12+15)
Fort +8, Ref +9, Will +7; +2 vs enchantments
Immune disease
OFFENSE
Speed 85 ft.
Melee unarmed +7 or +7/+7/+2 (1d8+1)
Ranged tanglefoot bags +9 ranged touch (entangle and half speed for 2d4 rounds; Reflex DC 15 or glued to floor, DC 17 Strength or 15 slashing damage to regain movement; Range 10 ft.)
Special Attacks stunning fist 7/day (Fort DC 16, stun 1 round or fatigue)
STATISTICS
Str 13, Dex 18, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 8
Base Atk +6; CMB +9; CMD 25
Feats Fleet x3, Point Blank Shot, Shot on the Run; Deflect Arrows, Dodge, Mobility
Skills Acrobatics +15 (+26 to jump), Climb +11, Escape Artist +15, Perception +8, Sense Motive +9, Stealth +15
Languages Common, Klavek, Vikmordere
SQ Evasion, fast movement (barbarian 10 ft., monk 20 ft.), flurry of blows, high jump, ki pool (magic, cold iron, silver; 5 points), maneuver training, purity of body, rage (5 rounds/day), still mind, slow fall 30 ft., unarmed strike, wholeness of body
Gear boots of striding and springing, hat of disguise, potion of invisibility, potion of negate aroma, potion of cure serious wounds, 5 smokesticks, 5 tanglefoot bags, hidden satchel (amulet of the sundered heart*, cloak of the dark servant*); currently under the effects of a potion of nondetection (CL 9th)
*If identified, these appear to be nothing more than an amulet of natural armor +2 and cloak of resistance +2.
TACTICS
The only thing on Hrolff’s mind is taking the loot back to his master, he will fight if cornered, but will take the first opportunity to continue his escape, and use his hat of disguise.

 

After the battle, Count Ragata hopefully gets the antidote (otherwise, he dies within 1d4 rounds without a restoration spell) and the party retrieves the stolen items from Vasiliev. The count assures them that all the items are accounted for, but says that the mask is not his (a DC 32 Sense Motive check reveals that he’s lying) and the party should keep it—furthermore, they are all invited to a ball held at his manor in two days time. He hands them each a gilded invitation to the masquerade ball, giving them occasion to wear the recovered mask. Again thanking the adventurers from the depths of his heart, he sincerely looks forward to seeing them at the grand event and introducing them to some of his acquaintances.

 

[A Wiborg/Myler Projekt]