Same game, new tools!

Tumbs upAbout two years and a half ago (can’t believe I’ve been blogging here for that long) I wrote a post about the then new game I was playing, Mutants & Masterminds, and I wrote about the tools I was using then for the campaign. They included an Excel sheet for character creation, a campaign Facebook group, so on and so forth. Here is the link for the post. As time has gone by I have only expanded the electronic tools I’m using…

I’m also gone FULL digital. I run all my games from my computer. This is facilitated that my current campaign is a Pathfinder RPG game and there are some excellent resources that allow me to run the game from my computer with minimal book look up, including first and foremost the Pathfinder Reference Document by Paizo and the Pathfinder SRD (which also has SRD for Swords & Wizardry, Heroes of the Modern Path, i.e. a modern version of Pathfinder, and d20 Hero SRD which is the SRD for Mutants & Masterminds).

I’ve developed my own tools to use in my games, Excel sheets for tracking experience points, Power Point presentations to share information, and I’ve embraced PDFs. If available I’ll get PDF copies of the games I’m running. The price of some PDFs can still be a stumbling block. Paizo has very reasonably prices PDFs of their core Pathfinder books, most are $10.00. Pinnacle has their Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorers Edition, both in PDF and print, available for $9.99, that’s a price you can’t beat for a full game. Green Ronin Mutants & Masterminds / DC adventures PDFs are double the price of the other books, but I love their system so much I’ll get them anyway. And I usually get physical books as well and Green Ronin has some nice pre-order prices where you get the PDF at a discounted price.

facebook-logoAs I worked on the Pathfinder swashbuckling game I developed a Google Sites page for the game, and did the same for a very short zombie game (which I posted about here and here). However more and more I am using Facebook for my campaigns. I realize the social media giant has lost a lot of love out there, but the fact is ALL my players are there and use it regularly, so it’s become the most convenient way to share information. The files options in Facebook groups, the ability to create them privately, and the ease of sharing campaign images via the pictures and picture albums, have replaced my Google sites.  I currently have four campaign groups, one for my current fantasy game, another for my past supers game and for the zombie game, and another for the next game, our sci-fi campaign.

Google-logo1 (1)I have not ended my love for Google mind you! I still use Google Drive to share some documents and collaborate with my players and friends, most notably the Pathfinder campaign experience points. I add each session’s award to a Google Docs spreadsheet and the PC’s check it to see when they level up. They are not even writing down their XP anymore.

youtube-logo2How to handle music in my games has been an ongoing battle. I went from no music, to carrying around a CD case with all the soundtracks I used for my games, to creating playlists in my iPod. What I’ve begun to do recently is create playlists on YouTube. There are a LOT of videos for game and movie soundtracks and I just pull them in appropriate playlists and play at my games. Or try, I forge oftentimes, but that’s my new thing. For example here are the playlists for my current Pathfinder swashbuckling game, and for my upcoming Wanderers of the Outlands sci-fi game.

WCCOne last thing… For the Wanderers of the Outlands campaign we’ll be using Savage Worlds and I intend to use Journeyman Games’ Wild Card Creator, since I backed the Kickstarter.

So that’s the state of technology in my game. I wonder; what tools are my fellow gamers and readers of this blog using? Anything you’d like to share? I’m always looking for new tools!

Thanks for reading…

Get to know your players! Sci-Fi Questionnaire

Sci-Fi checklistKeeping with the theme of Michael’s last post about campaign design, I would like to share a little something I created for my upcoming sci-fi game. As I’m ramping up for my the much posted about science fiction game, Wanderers of the Outlands (click on that link to read the background) I’ve created a questionnaire to get some feedback from my players about their likes and expectations.

I’ve written about questionnaires before, specifically the questionnaire for my supers game. I know my players make fun of my handouts (and my Power Points), but they have proven invaluable when preparing campaigns and creating adventures. So without further ado, here is a Sample Sci-Fi Questionnaire. You can also click here to get the file in WORD format.

I hope you  like it and find it useful! Looking forward to you feedback.

A different approach to campaign design

dnd_group A while ago two of my friends and I sat together to talk about our upcoming Fate Accelerated game. We all had different ideas about what we’d like to play. Several ideas were thrown around. We basically discussed everything from a game based on the Nickelodeon show Legend of Korra to a campaign set in the Mass Effect universe.

Eventually we settled for a campaign set into a world which has gone through an industrial revolution several years ago. Magic exists in the world and magic users have been the rulers of a vast empire for ages, but recently their influence is waning. After we had settled on this premise we talked about the elements we wanted to see in the campaign.

Pretty early on we made the decision to focus on one big city first. This allows the gamemaster and the players to flesh out the rest of the world step-by-step later. We also came up with the idea that there should be a dichotomy between magic and technology much like in the computer game Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magicks Obscura. My friends quickly came up with early concepts for their characters and I was given the task to flesh out our collected ideas into a more concrete setting.

So I took what we have talked about, added my own spin, and eventually created the city of Skalica (I borrowed the name from a Slovakian town). It was one of the centers of the age-old and mage-ruled empire which is now controlled by a council of elected representatives after the people raised up against their mage masters. The setting is rife with conflict: magic vs. technology, mages vs. mundanes, rich industrialists vs. poor workers, etc.

I intentionally left everything else pretty vague. In my opinion one of the strength of the Fate system is that it easily allows players to bring in their own ideas and expand on the setting during play. Focusing on a small area first and then later flesh out the details is a pretty new approach to me. Usually I love to create whole worlds, dozens of nations, with long histories. This time we decided to keep things small and I think this is an approach I’ll follow more often in the future. Planning everything beforehand can easily be overwhelming and actually limit your options. Imagine you want to add a new aspect to the setting you haven’t thought about until then. If the campaign world is already fleshed out to the tiniest detail, you might have trouble to fit it in. But if you focus on a small area first, there’s always more than enough space to expand into. Who knows what’s behind the next hill?

So what’s your approach to campaign design? Do you like to plan everything beforehand or do you prefer to start small and then slowly expand when needed? Please share your thoughts below!