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The Magic of a Name

By : Drop Dice

What's in a name...

So typically when you read a lot of fantasy novels especially those with Elves, Dwarves, and Werebears (oh my!) you tend to come across some odd naming conventions out there. You find things like this little gem I made where the name is designed to be ridiculous so that its unique. Now most people would simply break up the word and say the sword's name is Tal-ganz-fik-narf, but lets say I am one of those authors that really want to through a wrench in the works. Say its an Elven sword and in the Elven/Elvish language for this word maybe I have special rules like you only pronounce the consonants after vowels with the exception of z, which is always said and sounds like a hard S. So now its al-anS-ik-ar. Then the reader has to ask why all the other letters? No explanation given. Either way you get my point. Sometimes naming things and characters can be the hardest part about playing a game like D&D. A bad name can instantly detour a person from your game, I know for me if I feel like I cant say the vast majority of names of locations in a setting I usually put the book down immediately. So this time I am talking about some handy tips for naming things in your game.

Character Names

I usually look to real world names as a good source for humans and their half-breeds. This can also be used if you are saying that your Dwarven Culture has a Tibetan feel to it. You can reinforce the campaign setting by picking a name that is appropriate, or in the case of a foreigner, picking a name that is appropriate for you people but will stand out here. I tend to use the same website for every character I make simply because I like the interface, 20000-names. For more exotic races I will often look at the suggestions in the book and build something similar, or if they seem too complex perhaps try a common name your friends would use and a formal name that would match your race. Its not uncommon to have nicknames among friends.

Here is a short checklist I do to make sure I like the name:
  • If you are a player work with the GM to find an appropriate style name if things are not "per the book" exactly.
  • Can I say the name without having to put a lot of thought into it?
  • Can others figure out my characters name by just hearing it? (especially if your game is going on YouTube.)
  • What does your name mean? ( I like to make character's name be a reflection of my RP for that character.)
  • Is your name very close to another characters? (for ease of everyone at the table I recommend against having similar or same names, it would be realistic to have two Chris' as characters in your story but it can be confusing, if you do go that route use last initial as you do in the real world)
  • Found a good name? Good. Sleep on it, do something else, come back in an hour... Do you still like it, because you may have to use that name for the next six months?

Making Language Matter

If you do have a unique guide to the way things are said in a language it might not matter too much in game play beyond names so make it work. If you use the Elven Sword idea then you have to build a strong pronunciation guide make it publicly aware. You players should have a reference they can call on, but it should be more well defined than what I presented earlier. The guide I gave did not let the reader understand the choice of letters used. Perhaps in the Elven language they have a letter that would be "Ta" and another the is "l" now it makes more sense where that came from. Don't just put apostrophes in to break up a world, give them reason too. Maybe the word for sword is "Tal" and the apostrophe is the short hand equivalent to "of," so now its Sword of... Giving the weapon a name that matters and a easy alternative to use for the players. Unless they really like calling it "al-anS-ik-ar," which luckily isn't that hard to say, but it could be worse. Another tip is if you do have special letters like a sideways P with a christian cross superimposed on it always have the pronunciation written down near it, and spell out the things name so your players know if its something they will have to come back to in a later game or you have a note taker in your party.

Consistency

The important thing when playing with language is to establish rules. If you happen to be an native English speaker don't model it after English, way too many contradicting rules. Keep it simple. The more consistent you are with your naming conventions and language rules the easier it will be for players to buy into your story. Plus when someone comes along with a really strange name like Charles in a Korean themed Elf game its going to be weird, in fact they may say his name with their pronunciation at first if he writes it for them, so "ar-es." This can be fun if you want to try a traditional exploration into a foreign land campaign. You could teach the players the language rules while also teaching the characters. For a great example of the kind of thing check out the first season of the History Channel's Vikings, they learn English as the story goes, but it is a strange tongue to them. If you have the ability to I would suggest making up little rules and following them about the language, but only provide a translation to the player with that language. That may be a lot of work but it could be a vary interesting game, especially if you only have to worry about one or two languages in the game.

Camping for Bennies Revisited (D&D5e Version)

By : Drop Dice

Why revisit camping?

So as I mentioned in the original post about camping for benefits, the campsite is often over looked as a good place to have RP and could provide mechanical benefits for the party. So I am updating it for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. Again this should work for any setting using the Dungeons & Dragons rules.

Food & Drink

Extend your rations with hunting. The basics are the same think about the game in the area and can be treated as a random encounter. You can also use survival to actively track game or gather food supplies.  Using the chase rules (DMG 252) can also make the encounter more interesting, most animals will have a fight or flight reaction to hunters and most will take to flight making the chase even more important. If the players fail to drop the target with one hit have a chase ensue. As for cooking since D&D5e has streamlined the mechanics for skills you can just let the players say what they are cooking. This may be a great chance to work in their backstory and background, say they come from a land that is like Mongolia, but they are from the lower class. Their food is most likely some sort of delicious grilled food with sauce flavoring or grains and gathering related. Where as if they were from a wealthier background they may not even know how to cook well because of the pampered Noble life they were leading before adventuring. Same food just burned and they may know about some expensive dishes the Urchin could only dream of. Again this can lead to some interesting RP as not every character may love Mongolian Barbecue (for reasons unknown, because it is sooo good).

For an added mechanical benefit to help motivate players you could allow fresh food to give players increased resting benefits for the next day. Normally a long rest restores half of your total Hit Dice after a long rest. So I would give them the normal half total hit dice for a long rest plus one extra.


Music/Stories (Interludes)

One of my favorite things from Savage Worlds was the interludes, basically you would get a moment to tell people about you background in character or have the spot light to further develop your character. I mentioned it could be music as well or some other common feature of your worlds campfire traditions. Normally in Savage World this get you a Bennie (think Inspiration). 

I mentioned in that last post that I would give more bennies for more creativity, for D&D I like the idea of awarding the players with Inspiration for this, but keep in mind they can only have 1 Inspiration at a time unless you change that for your table. So I would give inspiration to the player who did an interlude and allow one player a chance to do an interlude each campsite. The rules for what type of interlude from Savage Worlds may still be used if you want to keep it random, if not story-tell.


Gear

If you use gear maintenance this would be a good time. I will be putting up a post about gear quality in D&D in the future, I will revisit camping with these gear quality rules in that post.


The Hearth

This by far was my favorite part from the last post. The idea of increased healing is awesome but it should do more than just add hit points since the way resting recover works. I would have it add 1 Hit Dice to those you recover during a rest if they carry a stone from the previous nights hearth with them to the new night's hearth. A prayer to the god of the hearth would be use to bless the  hearth, no spells needed. If using the fresh food option that is up to 2 Hit Dice extra after a long rest.


Optional Rules

If you are using the optional healing rules feel free to tweek these to fit the options to your healing rate in game. Since often its a a change in what a short rest/long rest is defined as.

World Building Extras: More Maps & Upcoming Races Inspiration

By : Drop Dice

World Building Extras: More Maps & Upcoming Races Inspiration

So I love collecting pictures for for inspiration, this one happens to be the YouTube channel thumbnail and a big source of inspiration for the Flood World concept, now named Isengar. I love the jagged alien nature of this planet but I wanted to use it for fantasy a fantasy project my friend started with me when we played a very complicated world building game. From there it has grown and expanded into something kind of neat. When I sit down and work on the map for the world I don't rush the work like I have done in the past because I am pacing myself to go with my planned YouTube schedule. It has afforded me a chance to look at some different aspects I had not thought of, so if anything is a take away from this is to give myself more prep time than I have in the past usually I have taken about three weeks or less to prep a homegrown game. This project has already exceeded my normal timeline and I don't think it should normally take this as long as the YouTube series will, but it should be longer or at least more developed than I have been treating it in the past couple years of games. The hope is to create a world that you are excited about and want to explore, but also to create something the players will be interested in so you will begin to see more open discussion items as the series develops. Stay tuned for more and as always please like, comment, and subscribe.

Map Updates:









 Race Inspiration Pictures












World Building Extras: Deities & Demiblogs

By : Drop Dice

Deities & Demiblogs

Moving along with the World Builder series on the YouTube channel we started talking about what kind of gods we want to use in this setting. So in part three I talked about using the domains created by Tim Harper at Samwise Seven RPG. So here is my list presented in the format you would see in D&D5e Player's Handbook.

I haven't worked out exactly the relationships of the gods just yet but that can be left open to player input for now this is just as much information as what a player gets in the Players Handbook. So far I have not named the world or the pantheon since it is still early in the process.

After that we look at some map update pictures. I would also like to add that the discussion on the races for the "Flood World" is still open to suggestions. and comments, anything from an aesthetic looks to culture is an open topic.

Gods of Unnamed Pantheon (Flood World)


DeityAlignmentSuggested DomainsSymbol
Kuru, god of magic and learningNGMagic, KnowledgeA sword hilt with an eye in the center
Ilo, god of illuminationCGLight, FireA single lit candle with a white flame
Nit, god of obfuscationCEWater, DarknessA brass candle snuffer
Cyone, goddess of the natural wayNMoon, NatureA cerulean blue disc
Ezdar, god of fortuneCNTrickery, IllusionA silver coin with two faces: one of joy , one of sorrow
Malkor, watcher of souls and ruinationLEDeath, DestructionA black iron coffin nail
Rayphon, goddess of civic dutyLNCrafts, ProtectionA shield and a smith's hammer
Abris, the traveler godLNTrade, TravelA white feather
Ibtarr, god of fertility and the starsNGLife, StarsA bassinet with three stars over it
Berius, god of battleLGWar, StrengthA golden ram rearing
Lytrix, goddess of the windCNAir, FateTriskelion
Acrena, goddess of hunting and stoneNEarth, AnimalsA primative longbow and arrow with stone arrowhead
Kazra, the unseenLEPlants, RevengeBlack antlers with twisting vines
Beta Nazhel, goddess of illness and sufferingNESlime, SufferingA snail

Map Updates:









More to come next time, see you at the gaming table.

Let's Morphin! Episode 1: Attack of the Tropes! Part 1

By : Drop Dice

What is Tokusatsu?

So for my friends anyways it is no secret to close friends I am a huge Power Rangers/Super Sentai fan along with the other parts of tokusatsu. Today we are going to talk about what tokusatsu is and why I am interested in making a game focused on it.

Tokusatsu is a genre of Japanese film and TV dedicated to special effects. Examples of the genre are Super Sentai(Power Rangers), Godzilla, Kamen Rider(Masked Rider), and even Spiderman at one point. It emphasizes special effects, over the top action and obviously repeated formulas for episodes and movies.

Those formulas are often called tropes. You will find tropes, or common elements, in most every type of game. In fact some games even have it in their name, Dungeons & Dragons. So when ever you start looking to create your own games you should consider the tropes you want and that's what we are talking about today. So the purposes of the game I am making I am only considering the core elements of Super Sentai and voiding those involving the gritty remakes. The remakes are fun but they dont capture the spirit of the game. I will consider gritty rules after establishing the core rules for those interested. Keep in mind Super Sentai is actually more gritty than the American Power Rangers, the characters do not have plot armor and can get seriously injured or die but only if the story is furthered by doing so.

The Big 5 Tropes of Super Sentai

1. Team work
2. World of Badass
3. Card-Carrying Villain
4. All up to you
5. Color Coded/Matching Motif

When thinking about the tropes for a type of game I always think about the big five. The big five should come up in almost every game and aspect of the game. 

In a normal game teamwork is mostly a given but in a Super Sentai game it becomes almost mandatory, sure there will be spotlight moments but for the most part teamwork will be needed to over come challenges. As for a world of badass, think about the episodes explosions everywhere, big monsters, big robots, and martial arts. This will be more influenced by the GM and players so it is really more of a mind set for the game. 

For the GM keep in mind that most villains are the card-carrying type meaning they will be evil and let everyone know they are. In almost every season you get one monster of the week who will change the status quo and actually try to be good. The rangers will help, but then the Big Bad will either corrupt him making the rangers fight their new friend or send a monster to finish off the failure, though that later is much rarer. 

"Its all up to you" is another trope that usually shows up in most any game but in a Rangers style game it is even more important your team is literally all that stands between the Earth (or your planet/galaxy/universe depending on scale) and the greatest threat known to man. And every new season the threat is some how considered worse even though the power level doesn't change all that much. For example in starting with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, every new threat was so much more powerful. In each season their powers where considered not enough so they got better powers until they got to Zero which was the most powerful rangers ever and still are for the most part canonically speaking. The following season is Turbo which was a step down in power but they power was specialized to fight their new big boss, and the specialized force motif continues from there with each new season. Super Sentai does the same specialized motif though it never really states which rangers are the most powerful. Thinking of it this way makes it understandable why a bad guy from the previous season could come back in a future season with new rangers and they still have a hard time fighting him.

Color coded/Motif is the blatant use of colored uniforms to mark who and what kind of person they are. In the past the Power Rangers and Super Sentai have been accused of racism and sexism with the color motif, though this has been changing over the last 10 years or more. And in the spirit of good gaming I am not going to focus on those elements, in my rules you will be able to pick a color regardless of race or sex, instead it will be focused on the common personality elements of each color for example Red is usually the leader, but he is almost always an icon of justice, heroism, and what the team should be, but he is sometimes willing to take on more than he can handle to keep his friends away from danger

For this hack I am considering using Blades in the Dark, which just finished a very successful kick starter and will be in final print later this year, or Apocalypse World/Dungeon World for ease of use. I think both systems have their merits but after play through the Quick Start Rules for Blades in the Dark I think that one may end up being the best choice.

Other notable tropes

Action Girl
Calling attacks (naming them)
An ass kicking Christmas
New Years (rest)
Authority = Ass Kicking
Awesomeness is volatile
BFG - Big Fucking Gun
Broken Faceplate
Monster of the week
Demonize the mundane
Henshin call (let's morphin of it's morphin time)
Drastic Tone change

For more about the game systems I am considering check out their websites:
http://apocalypse-world.com/
http://www.dungeon-world.com/
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2080350433/blades-in-the-dark



Until the next issue of Let's Morphin!

D&D5e Background: The Refugee

By : Drop Dice
So I am running the Youtube channel for Drop Dice which will be my main avenue of teaching and discussing games with the public this blog will serv as an expansion of ideas I brought up in past videos or like to day a random piece of game stuff.

Backgrounds are one of my favorite things in Dungeons & Dragons 5e and taking the time to customize backgrounds will have a nice way to work your players into the story. To day I am presenting one of my custom backgrounds I made for a post apocalyptic fantasy game where the elder god Chaos touched the material plane and left it in shambles.The refugee is a person directly effected by the catastrophe of his presence.

Background - Refugee

Skill Proficiencies: Medicine, Survival
Tool Proficiencies: Herbalism Kit
Languages: One of your choice
Equipment: A staff, a hunting trap, a set of traveler's clothes, an herbalism kit, and 5 gp


Feature: Survive
You have spent a lifetime wandering and meeting those who would be sympathetic to your plight. While in a city you can find those who will support you at a poor lifestyle. In addition, you can always find places to shelter yourself from the elements and hostile creatures at night, reducing the odds of being surprised. GM should modify the random encounter chart to account for this feature


Suggested Characteristics
d8
Personality Trait
1
I'm not sure when my next meal will be so I am constantly eating something.
2
I collect souvenirs from every place I've been.
3
I always have a plan for when things go wrong.
4
I have spent so much time drifting I have little practical experience dealing with city dwellers.
5
I'm not sure when my next meal will be so I hoard and ration food constantly.
6
I am utterly serene, even in the face of disaster.
7
I pocket anything I see that might have some value.
8
I watch over my friends as if they were a litter of pups.


d6
Ideal
1
Protector. My life is forfeit already, all I can do is protect those around me no matter the cost. (Good)
2
Tradition. Even though my city and people have been destroyed I will keep their traditions and beliefs alive through my actions. (Lawful)
3
Change. Chaos changed everything, those who do not think so are fools and will work to educate them. (Chaotic)
4
Survive. I will do things that many consider to be unethical in order to survive, my life is most important. (Evil)
5
People. One day I will find a place to call home. (Any)
6
Redemption. This is our chance to create something better than any civilization. (Good)


d6
Bonds
1
My lands were taken and made useless, one day I will have the strength to take back my home.
2
I have a family, but I have no idea where they are. One day, I hope to see them again.
3
I own little, but my honor and my word are my bond.
4
Someone close to me died because of a mistake I made. That will never happen again.
5
Where I lay my head is home, and I will fight to protect it.
6
I suffer awful visions of a coming disaster and will do anything to prevent it

d6
Flaw
1
I am a coward, conditioned to flee from the dangerous brought on by Chaos.
2
I left behind a spouse and child and it now brings me great shame.
3
I will never fully trust anyone other than myself.
4
I envy people who know their home, and I can't hide my resentment.
5
I'm constantly worried that I will never get to go home for one reason or another.
6
People who can't take care of themselves get what they deserve.

Character Background Episode 3

By : Drop Dice
Involving player backgrounds. This seems to be a big topic online. Pretty much everywhere you go for GMing advice, there is at least one article about the subject. So, I figured I would go over how I have done it in the past, and what I have learned since starting this blog.

Past

In the past, I have been a game store style GM. I would make a world and say "join if you would like." After getting players who showed up every week, for a while, I would start working their background in. This style worked well enough for me when I actually ran a game at the store. Since having a group that plays regularly, this play style is kind of limiting. I feel like my story-line is separate, from what the characters are interested in. It creates a dichotomy between personal story and GM Story.

 Oddly enough, I notice that in certain settings I ran differently. In Star Wars, I am almost always character heavy through out my story, if I had one prepared for the sake of their story. I cant really even explain it, but I guess its more media influenced. I feel like fantasy characters are almost wrapped up, in the story, where as sci-fi is more character centered. You see that most common in TV shows. In movies for example:
Star Wars is about the characters and their personal interactions with the Empire
Lord of the Rings is an epic. The characters are part of it and they have value but the ring needed to be destroyed by someone. It could have been anyone at all.
I think its more because of these iconic stories. that I have always done that in the past. I have always been ok with this formula. even though I knew my players often gravitated to my sci-fi campaigns. Not to say either way is lesser. Its just a preference.

Another thing I have noticed is I have not been much for completion. In the sense that my players have always had an ending, but it has never really been as memorable as some of the middle parts. I cant really think of a time, where my players thought of my end boss as more than a big guy with lots of hit points.

Something else I did, in the past, was plan a big epic story arc, at least 12 sessions a story arc. Every play session was a direct pick up from the last session.

Currently

Since tooling around and listening to other GMs and writers, I have kind of changed my mind on this. Firstly, I have come to the conclusion that I get GM fatigue faster than my players get player fatigue. I think its because I have always done long story arcs, that were not directly focused on continuation. I have almost always done mini-campaigns. I get my fatigue when I feel like the PC's are not accomplishing much, which in reality is my fault. They had almost no influence on the world, unless they started to siege other cities and take slaves.

So, this time I took a very different approach. I let the players make the world. The world being a continuation, of a world that they almost destroyed with previous characters. Their new characters have no direct connection to the last set, but its a neat concept to play out. Let the players fix the world they destroyed. I am also going into this with a different event style of story writing. Instead of doing long continuing story arc, that I hope is just building and building up, I am going to focus in on smaller stories, like a serial. The larger story will be there because of the supported smaller stories.

How does the back story work in? So, I linked a forum in the background tools post about hash-tagging peoples background and adding those hash-tags, to my plot points. My goal is to make every session hit at least one character's background, and if possible more. I thought this was so simple, yet a great way that works for me. The goal to finding a way to incorporate backgrounds is finding what works for you. I am not going to tell you that you should do it my way. I am going to refer you back to the internet. There are so many good opinions out there.

The big thing to remember is don't write your story for you. Write it for them. That's where the backgrounds become so important.

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