Start GMing Now

cropped-cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgIn honour of International GM’s Day, held each year on the anniversary of Gary Gygax’s passing, it seemed only right to post something about starting your GMing career.

If you’ve never game mastered before, it can seem like a pretty daunting task. And it isn’t for everyone; many gamers I know go their entire time in the hobby without running a single RPG session. There’s nothing wrong with that. As with most things we do for fun, there’s no point in doing it if it isn’t going to bring you enjoyment. But if you have ever thought you’d like to see what it’s like on the other side of the GM screen (and we’ll talk about those in a moment), then here are some tips to make that transition easier.

1) Gather Resources – There are plenty of resources out there to make a GM’s life easier, most of them available on-line and many for free or extremely cheap. If you haven’t quite decided what game you want to run, your first stop should be Drive-Thru RPG. Use “Free” as your search term, and then settle in for some serious scrolling and clicking. There are a metric buttload (yes, we use the metric buttload here in Canada. It’s about 2.67 of your Imperial Buttloads) of RPG material available for free on Drive-Thru. If you haven’t picked a game yet, you want to keep an eye out for anything marked as Quick Start rules. That will give you a bunch of options to choose from for your first game. Even if you’ve decided to run a standard Pathfinder or D&D game, there are pages and pages of free adventures to get you started, as well as PDFs of paper miniatures and map sheets. Yes, you’ll have to spend some time searching, but I did mention free, right?

If you have decided to run either Pathfinder or D&D, then I also recommend checking out the Paizo and Wizard’s of the Coast sites, respectively. Both have fantastic resources available, many of them free for download. At the time I write this, Paizo is running a Humble Bundle for charity. The value of the PDFs available is over $350, and you can get everything for about a $17 donation, an amazing deal by any standard. WotC will likely have similar deals available through Humble Bundle at some point, so it’s a site worth keeping on your radar.

2) Plan the First Session – Resources in hand, you can begin planning your first session. The details of how to plan are the subject of a separate article, so I won’t delve in to them here. But don’t bother planning any more sessions just yet. After all, your first may be your last, depending on how your players feel about the game, the setting, and a bunch of other details which have nothing to do with you. Probably the best way to plan the first session, and show off the game in its best light, is to treat it like this is the only chance you have to play it. That way you won’t be tempted to hold anything cool back for a future session. Why bother? Get all the cool stuff about the game in there right away. If the game is about exploring strange and dangerous old ruins, get them stuck into a weird old ruin right away. If the game is about mech warriors, get them in the pilot seat. Whatever is cool about that game should make an appearance as soon as possible, so your players can get excited. Then if you do go ahead with more sessions, your players are more willing to sit through quieter, slower bits because they know coolness is just around the corner.

Your first session is definitely one where you want to over-plan and under-deliver. Don’t worry that you won’t get to everything you came up with; you won’t. But you want more adventure than you think you’ll get to, just in case your players do something you didn’t expect. And as a new GM, that may happen a lot at first, so it pays to be ready. Don’t worry that you wasted that effort if the players don’t get to everything you’ve prepared for them. Just save it, make some changes, and use it for another session. All your players know about the game world is what you tell them, so they never need to know what they would have found if they went left instead of right. The left-hand encounter can show up later, with them none the wiser.

3) Gather the Players – Game chosen, an evening’s entertainment put together, it’s now time to gather your players. I’m assuming that you’ve come to GMing in the traditional fashion; a bunch of your friends were sitting around, lamenting they didn’t have a game, and you volunteered. But maybe you’re new to the hobby as well, and figured sitting in the GM’s chair was the best way to get your equally green friends to play. Whatever the case, the key to gathering your players is to pitch them on what’s exciting about the game. Easy enough to do, since you focused on that very thing during your preparation, right? Now is the time to really sell it to your potential victims…er, players.

Another part of successfully pitching the game is also knowing what your players like. If you’re pitching to veteran RPGers in search of a new game, you have a good idea of what they might like to play. But even if they are new to the hobby, you can usually find the not-so-subtle clues that point you to RPGs they might like. Did your group of friends flip over the Avengers movies? I see super-hero RPGs on your horizon. Are they action-movie crazy, or do they gather and discuss the latest fantasy epic? You might want to look at a cinematic action RPG like Feng Shui for the former, whereas the latter will be right at home in whatever fantasy RPG you land on. The point is, if you want them excited to play, pick a game based on something which already excites them. And remember, it’s just one session for now. If it doesn’t work, pick another game and repeat until something clicks. Hanging with friends and trying a bunch of different RPGs sounds pretty awesome in its own right anyway. And maybe you can convince everyone to take turns GMing for a session, so you get some play time as well.

Hope that helps convince you to take the GMing plunge. I’ll have plenty of GMing tips and tricks down the line (and you can search for past articles right now), so please come back for a visit any time. If you’ve got a specific question regarding GMing, or playing, or about RPGs in general, send your question to I’ll answer when I can, and may save up questions for a Q&A post here.

Racial Backgrounds to Fit Your Campaign

cropped-chibi-brent.jpgOne of the most satisfying pieces of creating the world for my D&D campaign was selectively re-skinning the races to fit my world history. I didn’t want to change any of the mechanics, but I needed the racial descriptions to better fit my world. Besides satisfying that need, re-skinning also helped inspire some of the history I created. So there was the added benefit of additionally fleshing out my game world, simply by making essentially cosmetic changes to racial descriptions.

A bit of history. The nation the players start their adventures in is called Cotterell. A little over a thousand years ago, fleeing a losing war with the Dark Fey, the Light Fey (Elves) appeared in Cotterell’s heartland, ripping their way into the world through a massive inter-dimensional gate. Unable to close the gate after them, the Dark Fey army followed, embroiling Cotterell in a centuries long war. Despite blaming the Light Fey for the the ongoing conflict, Cotterell had no choice but to ally with the Elves. In a desperate attempt to end the conflict, the Light Fey enacted a plan to forcibly close the gate. They succeeded, but in doing so caused an explosion of mystical energy, carving an enormous caldera out of Cotterell’s heartland and ringing the world with a magical shock-wave which forever altered the face of the world.  Our story picks up almost five hundred years after that Cataclysm, when the nation of Cotterell is finally strong enough to begin the arduous task of reclaiming the lands outside the cities.

I’ll talk in a bit more detail about that history in future posts. But that is the world in which my player’s characters exist. You can sort of see why I couldn’t just leave the racial descriptions as they are, especially for the Elves. But the above history bite also changed how Tieflings came about in my world, where gnomes come from, and the origin of the dragonborn. And making changes to the racial backstory of these caused changes to occur in my campaign world.

Let’s look at the Tiefling race as an example. The standard background for tieflings is that somewhere in their family’s history, someone consorted with an evil outsider. That caused a taint in the bloodline, which allowed tieflings to be born. This demonic origin made tieflings mistrusted at best and despised at worst. In post-Cataclysm Cotterell, tieflings do not come from extra-planar evil, but from the arcane shock-wave which followed the closing of the Gate. Every living thing on the planet was “infected” by the wave of runaway dark energy. This led not only to perfectly healthy parents of all races giving birth to tieflings even hundreds of years later, but was the source of many of the world’s Aberrations. As a result of this, while tieflings are an uneasy reminder of the Cataclysm, they aren’t reviled by the majority of the races, and generations later have gained tenuous acceptance.

There you go. Same race, same mechanics, but re-worked to better fit the history of my game world, where High Elves (and to a lesser extent, Wood Elves) and not Tieflings are the oppressed race. If you are creating your own world, I highly recommend looking hard at the history you’ve created to see where you can sneak in changes to both player and NPC races. It will add a unique flavour to your campaign, and might also be a welcome surprise for your more experienced players.

Have you altered racial backgrounds or re-skinned a race for your campaign? Let me know in the comments.

New Campaign Smell

cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgA week ago we started our brand-new 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Ever since I got the new books (a birthday gift from my Thursday night Pathfinder group, oddly enough) I knew I would want to run a 5th Ed game. But I also knew I wanted to do things a little differently from the Pathfinder campaigns I was running. Now, I love Pathfinder, have done since it came out. But from a GM standpoint I have gotten in a bit of an Adventure Path rut. The Adventure Paths for Pathfinder (along with the campaign world, Golarion) are an amazing tool, especially for a GM like me with a limited amount of time to spend on prep. But the APs do tend to lock you into a certain framework as a GM. Still fun, but after a bit I was missing some of the campaign creation I used to do. I could probably solve that issue by cutting back on the amount of Pathfinder I’m running/playing, but that would mean less gaming, so…no.

I also found I was playing Pathfinder with a lot of the same people with whom I tended to game on a regular basis. Nothing wrong with that per se, but I figured since I was making changes already, I might as well go all the way and drag some new players into the insanity. In talking with my various nerdy friends, I remembered the ones who had lamented not playing RPGs in a while for whatever reason. That seemed an excellent place to start. I contacted all three, hoping I might get two and expecting to wind up with just one. To my delight and surprise, all three responded enthusiastically (and within an hour or so of my sending the message) and even suggested a fourth player, giving me the table size I was looking for. With players in place and a date set for the first session, the count down to D&D goodness began.

Acquiring four new players was actually what made me decide that I would not use a pre-fab world for my D&D campaign, tempting as it was to revisit my earlier love, the Forgotten Realms. I’ll get in to the details of the world I’m creating, the Shattered Realm of Cattarell, in future posts. But that was my next step, creating the world for my players. I didn’t do much more than create a broad framework, and then fill in some details I knew we’d need for character creation. Everything I’ve written for the campaign world to this point fills just shy of 5-6 pages, including the rough hex map I’ve made of Cattarell. You can read earlier Campaign Creation posts (just search the tag) to get an idea of how I approach world building. But in general, I try not to detail much beyond where I expect the characters will go. This allows me two main benefits: I don’t waste my time over-prepping things for the players, and the players can then come up with world details of their own, which I can fit in on the fly.

Our first session was all character creation, which is a great way to see if the players are going to be a good fit together. There is a fair amount of inter-personal alchemy involved in putting together a new gaming group. However good the individuals may be (and they were all awesome), you can’t predict how they’ll get along at the table. I needn’t have worried; we had descended into what I refer to as “snarky camaraderie” in mere minutes. Character creation proceeded, fuelled by equal parts junk food and laughter, and our band of brave adventurers took shape. By evening’s end, we had:

  • a violet-coloured Tiefling Bard, daring the world not to pay attention to her;
  • a Half-elf Cleric of Knowledge, kicking ass to create her dream library;
  • an Elven Rogue, raised by the streets;
  • and a Human Fighter, ex-soldier looking for a cause.

I can work with that.

Stay tuned for future campaign reports, as I explore the Shattered Realms and talk more about our upcoming sessions.

2016: The Year of the Game

cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgAs the new year steams ahead, you are going to see much more activity around the old blogstead. 2015 was a bit rough for me on a personal level, and my posting definitely suffered as a result. Moving forward, I’m holding myself to at least two posts a week, with the option to put up more as my schedule and ideas allow. I love talking about this stuff, and I need to get back to talking about it here so my ramblings can hopefully be of use/entertainment to others.

2016 is also the year I get back to my gaming roots, as I GM…sorry, DM, my first D&D campaign in over a decade. D&D 5th has reinvigorated my love for that system, and I’m excited to start a new campaign with four new players who seem just as excited as I am about playing. Don’t worry, Pathfinder isn’t going anywhere; I still GM two campaigns for that, as well as playing in a third. But I’m going to be exploring and talking about D&D a lot over the next while, so brace yourselves for that.

This year, I plan to do a lot more gaming, period. More boardgames, other RPGs, computer games…I plan to immerse myself this year in as much gaming as I can handle. And then blog about it.

That’s it for now. Expect another post in a few days, as I talk about the start of my shiny new D&D campaign.

#RPGaDay, Day 16: Longest Game Session Played

Currently, the only time I play for what would be considered a really long time are either: a) Gen Con, where I can sometimes end up GMing three Pathfinder Society scenarios in one day which adds up to about 14-15 hours of play; or b) Extra Life, when I game for 24 hours straight.

But back in junior high, my pals and I would get together for our weekend-long sessions of D&D, hosted at one of our houses. Friday after school we’d pack our games, dice, and obnoxious amounts of junk food over to whichever home had accepted the Horde that weekend. And we would play RPGs until the parents got sick of us and sent us home Sunday afternoon. Usually we’d blast through whatever the latest AD&D module was (the weekend we played G-1-2-3 Against the Giants still lives as one of my favourite memories), but these weekends were also when we’d take a break and try out other games: Paranoia, Skyrealms of Jorune, Car Wars, GURPS; we ran the gamut.

These days, of course, carving out that kind of time for gaming is well-nigh impossible. But I like to think that maybe, someday, we’ll manage to ave one of those weekends again.

Extra Life 2014

Facebook-cover-AlbertaOnce again I am taking part in Extra Life, raising funds for the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Alberta with Team #Knifeshoes. If you’d like to make a donation, please do so through my secure donation page. I’m really excited to be taking part again this year, and with your donations I’m hoping I’ll beat last year’s total.

With the expansion of Extra Life in to the table-top realm, I’ll be heading up Team #Kinifeshoes’ board and role-playing game special teams. I’ll start the day at a local gaming convention, InrigueCon, running a table of Kobolds Ate My Baby! Then a quick run over to Team #Knifeshoes HQ (a friend’s house) to set-up in their game room for the rest of the 24 hours. I’m going to use this as an opportunity to take D&D 5th out for a spin, and run through the basic box material. Assuming that doesn’t last us the entire rest of the time, we’ll intersperse with board games to cleanse the palette.

I look forward to a whole lot of fun being had (tired, tired fun), all in a great cause. Please make a donation if you can (you can donate from anywhere, by the way; it will credit you according to your country’s donation laws) of any amount. Every $5 helps, and adds up to get us closer to our goal. And if you live in Edmonton, contact me if you want to play in the D&D 5th at least part of the day. I’ll let you know what time we’ll start and where Team #Knifeshoes HQ is located. My only stipulation (if you aren’t already on Team #Knifeshoes) is that you make a donation to me. It is a fundraiser, after all.

RPGaDay Roundup, Part 3

This is Part 3 of my RPGaDay Roundup, if you’re just jumping in. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 by clicking their links.

Day 19: Favourite Published Adventure

I’m a huge fan of the Adventure Paths for Pathfinder in general. I think the concept of packaging a discreet section of a campaign, along with a mini-gazetteer and bestiary is brilliant. There have been many Adventure Paths published over the years, but my favourite  is still the first one: Burnt Offerings, from the Rise of the Runelords AP. It has some of my favourite monsters, goblins, showcased in all their re-imagined and psychotic glory; it contains the village of Sandpoint, which is such a perfect starting locale for adventurers it’s like a gift to the GM; and at the time (and still, for the most part) no one else was publishing a book like it. Add in gorgeous and evocative cover art by Wayne Reynolds and there is nothing to dislike about this book. And as I mentioned before, Paizo has continued to improve upon the Adventure Path idea since.

Day 20: Will Still Play in Twenty Years Time…

Games may come and go, but I can predict with some certainty that one form or another of Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder will still have a place on my shelf. D&D has been such a big part of my life, I’ll always have it around. And Pathfinder, though relatively recent, is such a huge part of my current gaming life. Not just the game itself, though that might be enough. No, the friends I’ve made playing the game and as a Venture-Captain for Organized Play, the experiences I’ve had because of the game…Pathfinder isn’t going anywhere.

But I’m also excited to see what the new things in tabletop gaming will be down the line. So I’ll also say, whatever is cool and fun twenty years from now is something I’ll be all over, as I roll my hyperdice in Gamer’s Haven Retirement Home.™

Day 21: Favourite Licensed RPG

The Firefly RPG, hands down. I’m a huge fan of the Firefly show and universe, and this RPG from Margaret Weis Productions highlights everything I love. Action, adventure, clever dialogue (okay, that last depends on the players but something about the game manages to bring it out) all set in a ‘Verse I’ve come to know and love. There might be a time when flying my own ship crewed by a band of strangers and miscreants won’t appeal to me, but I don’t see that happening soon.

I will say this, it is not a game for all players. If you are with a group who all love the Firefly show, which is arguably most of the time, you’ll have a lot of fun. But playing it with folks who are not familiar with, or just didn’t like, Firely, can be a bit of an ordeal if you are trying to immerse yourself. So choose your crew wisely.

Day 22: Best Second-hand RPG Purchase

One of the best second-hand purchases I ever made was the Nexus Live Action Role-playing, Play This Book, Vol 1. I love game books which give me a view to what the earlier days of gaming were like. The book laid out a live-action role-playing game scenario, which could best be played as part of an existing sci-fi or gaming convention. Closer to the idea of those party game murder mysteries, participants would be given characters ahead of time. They would then costume themselves, use the prop items and clues included in their character package, and show up ready to play through the game all weekend.

The book was great! Not only did it outline a pretty interesting plot which included competing intelligence agencies (terrestrial and non-), alien criminals, and a scientist from multiple dimensions, it also gave detailed instructions on how to organize and manage the game. Much of the information is dated, as it comes from a pre-internet and smart phone era. But reading it, I could easily see how aspects of game-play could be updated for use now.

I don’t even know if they published a Vol 2. But I take the book off my shelf and re-read it often for a bit of nostalgia.

Day 23: Coolest Looking RPG Product/Book

Published in 2006, Monte Cook’s Ptolus: City by the Spire is still one of the coolest looking gaming books I own. Now, if it was just a really well-detailed campaign source book from Monte Cook, that might be enough. But this book is so high quality, so unlike any other book published at the time (or since, really), it is the game book to which I compare other game books, and fine them wanting.

It’s annotated. As a GM who has suffered much eye-strain over the years trying to search out details when I’d forgotten where I’d found them, that alone makes the book priceless. Added to that, it is such a beautiful book throughout, with more full-colour art and maps than I’ve seen in entire game systems, never mind a single book. I was lucky enough to get a print copy when it was first published (and later, to get it signed by Monte Cook himself). If there is a house fire, Ptolus will be in my arms as I leave the building.

Day 24: Most Complicated RPG Owned

Pathinder is about as complicated as I get these days, and I tend to look at alternatives which are much lighter in complexity. I don’t mind complex, as long as it serves a purpose other than to be intentionally arcane. I came out of the era of THAC0 and Rolemaster, after all, so I am no stranger to convolutions in my gaming.

If you get a chance to look at them, the wide variety of critical hit charts for the original Rolemaster game are a work of art. Talk about detail for the sake of detail. These tables listed the effects of a variety of different major wounds sustained from an endless variety of weapons, monsters, and other misfortunes. I don’t know anyone, myself included, who actually used them all. I remember my group in junior high had a brief flirtation with them, as applied to our AD&D campaign. But it was a brief fling, as we had better things to do than roll on tables all the time.

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This brings us up to date, gentle reader. Starting Monday, expect a new RPGaDay post every day as we finish out the month.

Friday Linkdump for December 6

Back when Renaissance Gamer was still Renaissance Dork, I used to do a weekly link post of stuff I found around the internets I thought was cool and interesting. I want to get back to that, because I’m still finding cool gaming stuff to share, as well as things that are…let’s call them “gaming adjacent”. These would be things that might inspire your campaign prep or spark an idea for a neat location, monster, NPC and so on. And Friday seems a good day to this, since it gives you the weekend to skim through it all and explore.

So I present to you, the first Friday Linkdump:

– Like Attack Wing, but hate the paint jobs on the minis? Calgarian and wargaming enthusiast Teri has some painting tips.

– Given the number of friends I have who are afraid of spiders, I’d need to buy several of these robots; at least one would always be in the shop.

– Re: my earlier post about maps, I can’t believe I forgot to mention Dysan’s Dodecahedron.  A great RPG blog, definitely worth checking out!

– Sticking with maps, here’s a great interview from Wired with Jonathon Roberts, the guy who mapped The Game of Thrones.

Have some holiday gaming gift ideas, courtesy of io9.

– I love finding little gems like this on YouTube: I give you, Role Initiative: A D&D Musical

– There used to be D&D Summer Camps! I want to go to there!

– The perfect gift for the rogue in your life: Lock Pick Earrings.

– Sticking with jewellery, this is a pretty cool necklace for the geek in your life.

– It’s no secret weird things get said at the gaming table. This blog collects them for you.

– Terry Brooks’ “Shannara” series is in the works to come to television. Cue manly squee of joy in 3…2…

– Looks like the Advanced Bestiary for Pathfinder is going to be pretty cool, if this post by Chris Pramas is any indication.

– And finally: Larry Elmore has begun another KickStarter, this time to fund a new SnarfQuest book. As you would expect it has already reached funding with 41 days to go. I’m interested to see what stretch goals make an appearance; maybe my dream of a Snarf plushie will become reality!

That’s it! Have a great weekend, play games, and I’ll see you on Monday!

30 Days of Game Mastering, Day Twenty

Two-thirds of the way through, gentle readers. After today a scant ten entries lie between us and the end of the 30 Days of Game Mastering Challenge. I really hope you’ve found some of these posts useful. When this is over you’ll be able to read all these entries in one of two ways: either click on the 30 Days of GMing tag, or read them on the separate page I’m constructing to house all this advice. In the meantime, lets finish out the first twenty…

What was your best session and why?

I have one particular session that sticks in my mind, from a campaign I played in years ago. The session didn’t start out so promising; only three of the usual six players had made it to the game that night. But while we were talking before the game started, we discussed how funny it would be for the next session to start with some totally improbable situation, just to freak out the absent players. A little more discussion, and this went from “Wouldn’t it be funny if…” to “This is what we have to do!”. And one of the most epic evenings of play had begun!

Out of context here is the list of “six impossible things” we had to achieve in order for our plan to work:

1. Kill the fire giant chieftain and his mammoth animal companion.

2. Take control of the fire giant tribe.

3. Hollow out and reanimate the animal companion.

4. Using the animal companion as a sort of “Trojan Mammoth”, secure the bulk of our party inside.

5. Get safely to the Drow stronghold, potentially protected by the fire giant tribe.

6. Our vampiric dwarf cleric must use diplomacy to gain entry to the stronghold, allowing us to start next session not only inside the Drow stronghold, but inside a zombie mammoth.

Not exactly a short or easy to complete bucket list for the party. And frankly, we would have been happy to just get one or two items complete that evening, and carry on with the rest next session. But as amazing as it sounds we completed everything on that list in one 3-1/2 hour session of play. I won’t bore you with the details, but I will touch on a few points that contributed to our GM starting the next session with, “We start where we last left you guys, inside the mammoth. What would you like to do next?” Side note: we resisted saying anything about what happened that night to the other three players, so they started the session ignorant of what had passed. The looks on their faces when the GM started the session were everything we dreamed of.

Our GM ran with it – Our GM could have fought us any one of the points of our plan. They varied from the improbable to the downright ridiculous. But our GM saw how invested were were in this plan and rather than fight us, went along for the ride. That isn’t to say he made things easy for us, though I suspect there may have been a little fudging in our favour at a few points. He realized that, first and foremost, his job was to make sure we had fun. So rather than throw pointless blocks in out path, he went with the key improv philosophy of, “Yes, and…” and gave us an exciting evening of D&D. I GM that same group of guys now (with a few new additions) and there isn’t one of us that doesn’t still remember that session with fondness. And all because our GM put the fun factor first.

Discussion does not equal fun – For the campaign we were playing, six players was a perfect size. (Against the Drow, for anyone that remembers that 3.5 ed. gem) For most situations, anyway. But with six players a fair amount of session time can be spent just deciding what we were going to do. I can honestly say, if the other three players had been there that night we would never have come up with the plan, never mind pulled it off. That doesn’t mean they were bad players, or intentionally obstructive. But there can be a tendency during these group discussions to just go with the path of least resistance, in order to end the discussion and get back to playing. But with just three of us, plus a desire to “punish” the other three players for their failure to attend, we went from conception to planning to execution in a very short order. And when it came to execution, we still had all six characters at our disposal; our GM’s policy on player absence allowed for the characters to be played by proxy, either the GM or one of us. So we essentially had three brains controlling six bodies that night. Combine that with us being very brave and bold (especially the three player-less characters), and we were able to achieve in step in our plan in easily half the time it would have taken with full attendance. I’ve carried that lesson with me as both a player and a GM: sometimes it can be a bad thing to give the players too much time to discuss. There is often value in throwing them into the thick of it and forcing them to think on the fly.

The goal was fun – I think if our goal was more punitive towards the absent players, the GM would have steered us away from whatever course of action we developed. But because our goal was to: a) do something fun with our evening even though we were missing half the party, and b) “punish” the absent players by starting in a weird situation which ultimately served our campaign goals, the GM allowed things to happen. And I think that was my biggest take away from that evening: almost anything should be allowed to happen at the table as long as it serves to make the game fun. Fun is why we play; fun is why these are role-playing games and not works. That doesn’t mean that, as a GM, you have to allow the players to run with every demented idea they come up with. But, if their idea isn’t going to sink the campaign or harm another player’s character without their consent, and it will lead to the players having more fun rather than less, go with it. Our list of six things was a near impossible shopping list of tasks, and by rights we shouldn’t have pulled them off. But we did, and as a result we had an evening of fun still talk about years later. So the next time you’re GMing and you want to say no to your players, take a second to reconsider. Saying yes might just make for a memorable evening.

What was your best gaming session, player or GM? Tell us about it in the comments. And join us tomorrow for Day 21: What are your favourite books about game mastering?

Card Hunter

Largely because of Facebook I became a fan of browser based games. Something about there simplicity tapped into both my mildly obsessive-compulsive tendencies, and my love of the simple arcade games of my misspent youth. I try not to take on too many at once, however, because, well, obsessive-compulsive. If I have things to get done, too many browser games means that won’t happen.

But every once in a while I find a game like Card Hunter by Blue Manchu that’s just so much fun, I give in. In the world of Card Hunter you are back in junior high, hanging out in your buddy Gary’s basement. You and Gary are swilling sodas, scarfing junk food, and playing a cool D&D-esque boxed role-playing game, Card Hunter. You put together your party and Gary, like any good newbie GM, leads you through a series of adventures, equal parts thrilling and ridiculous.

Now this would fall firmly into the category of “generic fantasy browser game”, and I would have hit it and quit it a while ago. Except the game really embraces the feel of two young nerds (nerdlings? nerd cubs?) huddled in their parent’s basement playing RPGs. The graphics play into that feel, from the character sheets to the sometimes hand-drawn look to the maps. Play is turn based, and each character (and monster) has a deck of cards they use to resolve combats and move around the map. You gain more and different cards based on the treasure you equip, and you can equip more powerful treasure as you level up. Adding to the overall feel, is the interjection of Gary’s older brother Melvin (the actual owner of the game) who is a Card Hunter veteran. He is constantly bragging about his gaming exploits, and at one point you even play through a module Melvin wrote (Melvelous the Magnificent). Eventually Melvin’s bullying gets too much for Gary, and that leads to the adventure “Against the Cockroaches” fighting the Demon Lord Morvin the Malodorous. Then Melvin takes the game away and they aren’t going to be able to play, until Karen the Pizza Girl reveals that she is a GM and has here set in the car…

Yeah, there’s a bit more going on than just your usual fantasy click-and-crush play. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of click-and-crush. While there is definitely strategy to the game, don’t look for an immersive role-play experience in Card Hunter. This is old-school hack ‘n slash, baby, just like we used to play over a bottle of our finest Mountain Dew.

And that’s what grabbed me and kept me playing. For a little while it put me back in that long ago basement I miss so much. Not because I think the games were better back then. But because I was still discovering the hobby, and approached it with a sense of wonder I miss. That’s why Card Hunter grabbed me. For all that it may be just another browser game, it reminds me of good times spent messing around with the hobby I love. If you are an Old Gamer like me, I suspect it might grab you as well. But even if you aren’t an OG, Card Hunter is a heck of a lot of fun.

How about you, any browser games you get a kick out of? Drop your suggestions in the comments.