Category Archives: Improve Your Game

Free Stuff Friday: Tolkien Fonts

It’s Friday and it’s time to give you some more free stuff!

This week’s Free Stuff is: Tolkien Fonts
Fonts? What the heck would I need fonts for? Well let me tell you buddy. Sometimes when I play an RPG I like to have notes or cryptic messages for my players to fine or decipher. They love doing stuff like that and just eat it up! This is one site I have used in the past to find a font I could use in my game. So Go check it out and down load some FONTS!

On the Tolkien Fonts website they wrote this stuff up: “Here you can find various Lord of the Rings fonts, especially the Ringbearer Font and Aniron Font

So please check out the site and start downloading some free fonts.

The Worst Game of My Life

A couple of weeks ago I ran the worst Dungeons & Dragons game of my life!  It was the kind of game that felt like a slow motion train wreck. Something had gone horribly wrong and I didn’t think my players, or myself for that matter, where going to make it through the whole game.  When it was finally all over, I sat back thinking, “I would never play Dungeons & Dragons again.”  I know that sounds dramatic, but that was truly my state of mind at the time.  It was all-in-all a horrible experience.

It started out with everything in my favor.  I had the luxury of time to plan this particular adventure.  Over a month of time to be honest.  All the while I continued to run my weekly game, building up each session to the mother of all climaxes.  I had great traps and monsters designed.  I had help from other Dungeon Masters.  I drew some really great maps on my battlemats.  I was so very much looking forward to this game.  With all the time and effort I had put into it, I could hardly wait for my group to play it.  I knew they where going to have an unbelievably great time!

However, by the end of the encounter, my perfectly planned game with all its wonderful traps and monsters fell apart right before my eyes.  The energy and fun was all sucked out by players questioning the balance of the encounters and debating whether or not it was even a fair game to begin with.  It was all I could do to keep them playing and letting them know there was a light at the end of this very long game.

So how did this happen?
I over planned.  I was to so caught up with making my monsters and NPCs look cool and act cool. I was DMing like it was me vs. the rest of the party.  I forgot something very important about roll playing games – you run a game for everyone to have fun, so everyone can feel important and like a hero.  Sadly, I had let my own ego get in the way.

As a result of this, I was in a self pity funk for the better part of a week after the game.  When I was finally able to pull myself out of it and dust off, I started to think about what I was going to do next.  I have been playing Dungeons & Dragons for over a year now and have almost always had a great time running it.  I was not going to let this one bad game defeat me.  I decided that if I was going to keep playing D&D I needed some help.  I needed to talk with other Dungeon Masters about what I did wrong and how I could avoid it again.  I needed to see what other people where doing online to keep their games fun and exciting.  I needed help and I was not afraid to ask for it.

Dungeon Masters.
I first went to Mike Shea of Sly Flourish. Though I have never actually spoke to Mike before, I have followed his website and twitter posts for sometime now and he seemed like a nice enough guy.  I thought it was worth dropping him an e-mail and seeing what he thought about my recent adventure.  I wrote to Mike with specifics regarding my last game, hopping he could point out how I could have ran things better.  He got back to me with much needed great advice.

Next, I wanted talk to someone who could slap me around a little and explain to me what I did wrong and how I could not just improve, but also make up for it at my next game.  The first man I went to was Capitain Pike.

Captain Pike was the very first Dungeon Master I ever met.  He ran 3.5 games with me and some friends several years ago.  I always had a good time at his games and have sought his advice before when I needed it.  The good caption has always been more then willing to help me out.

Captain Pike’s message to me was one of congratulations followed by discipline.  He pointed out that the reason my party was getting so upset was because bad things where happening to them.  My party had become attached to their characters, so of course they are going to feel hurt and upset if something negative happens to one of their characters, and of course they are going to question if your game is fair and balanced.  Players put a lot of time and effort into their characters.  They have a personal investment in them.

Captain Pike also congratulated me for sticking to my guns and not wavering.

While I was down and out I discovered a new website (to me) called DiceMonkey.  The thing I like about this website is that the main writers are a husband and wife team that remind me of myself and my fiancé.  I went to the very first post on this site and read it all the way through to its current post. One post in particular got my attention over the others.  It was a post regarding a small book titled, Robin’s Laws of Good Game Mastering.

Based on the advice of this post, I picked up a copy of the book from amazon (I now see you can buy a cheaper PDF version) and read it cover to cover the first night I got it.  It’s filled with so much great information that applies to all role playing games.  It really did remind me that we all play role playing games to have a good time. The pages of this book are filled with some great advice on how you can plan an interesting game and a fun encounter for you and your friends.  It reminds me of something I read from a Jeph Lobe interview regarding the Batman: HUSH series he wrote.  He said in this interview something to the effect of, “I try to write stories people want to read and see on the page.  People want to see Batman fight the Joker.  People want to see Batman match wits with the Riddler.  People want to see Batman fight Superman.  So I just give them what they want.”  I think of that quote every time I sit down to plan my next D&D game.  My players want to crawl through dungeons and they want to fight dragons; It’s even in the name of the game we are playing. So I try my best to give them what they want each time.

From this whole experience I have take with me a few hard learned lessons.

  1. Run a game for the players.
  2. When they succeed, you succeed.
  3. The game is called “Dungeons & Dragons,” so give them what they want. Give them dungeons to crawl and dragons to fight.
  4. Remember the rule of fun.

Improve Your Game: Character creation as a team effort

In some modern roleplaying games, especially games based on FATE rules, character creation is something one player can’t do on his own. In order to create your character you have to cooperate with your fellow players. The character creation method in FATE makes sure the background stories of the player characters are already intertwined in some way. The GM (and the players) will never have to face the issue of the dreaded “team of loners” that have no reason to cooperate.

Another game that makes cooperative character creation necessary is the latest edition of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game. In that game each party has to chose why they are working together (there’s a limited number of choices) and each party type grants certain abilities. There’s even a mechanic for handling in-party stress.

What I’ve learned in my years of roleplaying experience is, that a game definitely profits when the first session of a new game consists of character creation and coming up with a reason of why these characters work together. And in my opinion game masters should make it clear that the characters are supposed to cooperate. In-party intrigue and infighting may be fun once in a while, but when the party members are on each other’s throats all the time, it has usually an detrimental effect on any game.

My advice to GMs is, that when you’ve decided what game to run, schedule a character creation session. Talk about what the players have to expect. Then ask the players to discuss their character concepts and make sure each character at least knows one other character in the party. Another possible connections are being a friend of a friend or having the same mentor, patron or enemy. Whatever it is give the players a reason why the would work together. And trust me, forcing the player characters to work together “because the king said so” never works. It’s better when the players come up with something themselves. The GMs role should be to encourage them to think about reasons.

As with all roleplaying advice your mileage may vary, but creating characters as a team effort definitely made things much easier for the players and the GM. If you haven’t done so, give it a try.