Never Forget the Action

The first foray into offering suggestions for improving the experience of playing roleplaying games came years ago when I detailed how to create an in-world newsletter to summarize important events and characters in an ongoing campaign. Before that time, I took on the responsibility of summarizing the events in my group’s D&D campaign, which turned into a lengthy document that spanned many months of gaming sessions. In general, I believe externalizing and recording the actions during a session is important so everyone involved can easily have cues to remember things when it is time for the next session, which may not take place for days, weeks, or even months. The most recent campaign I started was with the World Wide Wrestling RPG, which has so far been a delightful experience. Below I offer a template to recap the events that take place during a play session of WWW RPG.

Approximately 15 years ago, I met Wade Keller, the creator of Pro Wrestling Torch, which has been operating for over 25 years and now features daily podcasts in addition to a website updated around the clock with new content. Before learning publications like Pro Wrestling Torch existed, I was a wrestling fan that did not have any insight into the business other than enjoying the entertainment it provided. Professional wrestling features ongoing news and drama based on political issues, injuries, scandals, and speculation about how recent events behind the scenes will affect the future direction of a promotion. Having consumed content from Pro Wrestling Torch (off and on) for 15 years, I am now familiar with how the industry is covered and reported. I borrowed heavily from the coverage style of live wrestling events like James Caldwell’s recap of World Wrestling Entertainment’s most recent pay-per view, Money In the Bank.

I created the following recap almost a week after the first gaming session with the World Wide Wrestling RPG. During the session, I jotted down some notes to remind me of key events, and several of the players tweeted about moments during the game – so I was able to refer to that as well when writing the recap. Ideally, the recap would have been written closer to the conclusion of the gaming session to ensure nothing significant is forgotten. On the other hand, waiting a few days can provide interesting additional context for a recap. One suggestion is to have the recap be a rotating responsibility in the gaming group, so players take turns writing a recap after the event. I asked players in an online D&D campaign to rotate writing session summaries last year, and that worked quite well.

Enjoy the recap of the first episode of the Midwest Wrestling Alliance! A MS Word version of the recap is also available if that would help as a template.

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Get Inside the Squared Circle

WWW RPGWorld Wide Wrestling RPG is a new game that allows a group of players to create their own professional wrestling promotion and live out their dreams as larger-than-life characters in and out of the ring. The game is a must for any tabletop RPG enthusiast that also happens to have a soft spot for professional wrestling; however, the game can be readily consumed by players that do not know the difference between a suplex and DDT. I previously presented how borrowing the drama of professional wrestling can be used to enhance roleplaying games. World Wide Wrestling RPG is nothing but the drama and action of professional wrestling.

I played the game for the first time last week, and it was a fantastic session. I am also in the process of interviewing WWW RPG’s creator, Nathan D. Paoletta, which should post within the next couple of weeks. My goal with this post is to briefly explain how the game works, and then present a number of suggestions based on my experiences running a session.

Professional Wrestling is Roleplaying

Professional wrestling presents a fictional world to an audience to consume. That world features heroes (babyfaces) and villains (heels) with many shades of grey in between. The plot for the audience is scripted by a creative team to maximize the audience reaction to events that take place in the fictional world. The heroes battle the villains, and there are many complications along the way. The wrestlers do combat in (and sometimes outside) of the ring to determine who wins and who loses. Whenever one villain is defeated, he or she finds a way to come back again – or a new foe takes center stage. The hero’s work is never truly done as there is always a new challenge to overcome. Sound like a familiar premise for a roleplaying game?

Players create different types of wrestlers instead of adventurers. Players roll dice to determine the success of wrestling moves and other activities to increase the popularity of his or her wrestler. When a player’s wrestler gain enough popularity, the wrestler is allowed to level up (called Advance in WWW RPG) to learn new skills or strengthen an existing statistic. The GM (referred to as Creative in WWW RPG) orchestrates the session by introducing non-playable wrestlers (NPWs) and other personalities to set events in motion. Other world-building activities required of Creative are detailed below.

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Mola Mola Death Rules

Suprise! Mola! Mola!

Surprise! Mola! Mola!

Last week, I made the plunge (puns) and gave into the temptation to download the incredibly silly time-waster known as Mola Mola. From numerous people I follow on Twitter, I kept seeing notifications about fish dying in tragic ways. I was curious, and decided to give it a try. It’s free – what could go wrong? The game is like a million other products that run on the mechanics of behavioral psychology and a variable-ratio reinforcement schedule. There is even an achievement for tapping on your mola 3,000 in one game, which is ridiculous. Did I complete this task? Of course I did! When you play the game, the goal is to grow a bigger fish, survive grander adventures, and unlock more and better food. Rinse (oh, puns), and repeat.

The unique thing about Mola Mola is that death, which happens frequently, suddenly – and quite tragically I might add – actually makes you stronger in the next play through. When your fish dies, the likelihood that it will die again from the same cause is reduced. For example, your fish could die sunbathing (just trust me). The first time you go on the sunbathing adventure, you have a 50% chance of surviving. When you die by sunbathing the first time, the chance of survival increases to 75%. When you die by sunbathing a second time, the survival rate increases to 95%. Also, when you die, you earn Mola Points (MP) that can be used to buy food and adventures – so death makes you stronger. If MP reminds you of experience points (XP), then you are correct; it’s exactly like XP.

Death is often seen as a negative outcome in gaming. Death in videogames often leads to the player starting over from a checkpoint to progress through a level again in the hopes of learning from their errors. Death in tabletop games often ends the adventure for the character that has died – unless he or she is brought back to life through some type of game mechanic or divine/DM intervention. Mola Mola takes the outcome of death and turns it into something that is rewarding and makes it easier to advance further in future games. Below, I explore how Mola Mola-style death could be used to inject more life into your next roleplaying game session.

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Ego Check: Scott Taylor, Creative Director for Art of the Genre & Gygax Magazine

Scott Taylor

Scott Taylor

During the life of this blog, I have been fortunate to interview interesting members of the roleplaying game community in addition to professionals from other fields. It has been a great way to learn more about the RPG industry and discover some of the history I have missed along the way. The following interview is with Scott Taylor, who was kind enough to communicate with me about his numerous roles over the years in the fantasy art world. My fondness for old-school fantasy art is on display in my home everyday, so I was eager to dive into the interview and learn Scott’s perspective on a number of topics related to fantasy art.

Below, Scott explores trends in the RPG art industry, and discusses his list of the most important artists throughout his years in the business. The interview closes with an overview of his eighth Kickstarter campaign, The Folio, which is a throwback to old school modules that now adorn a table in my house!

Thank you for sharing your time and discussing your work in fantasy and science fiction. It is my understanding that you have worked as an art director, editor, publisher, writer, and agent in these realms. I’m curious to learn more about those different hats! How did your career in fantasy and science fiction get started?

Well, I suppose I got into this career like most folks, first as an avid gamer, and then slowly working my way into publishing with fantasy publications like Black Gate, then Wizards of the Coast, Privateer Press, and finally Gygax. That is the short answer, and I guess the longer one would be a lifelong obsession with fantasy art. I found that if you work hard enough, artists that you once thought were gods on high, could be accessible. When I began making friends with people I had looked up to since childhood, new avenues and opportunities appeared, namely my own business at Art of the Genre where I get to work first hand with legends in the field.

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Undone – The DungeonScape Song

Trapdoor LogoWhen Codename: Morningstar was announced earlier this year, players of Dungeons & Dragons greeted the news with a mixture of interest and apprehension. Veteran players of 4th Edition D&D had used the digital tools created by Wizards of the Coast for years with mixed results. The Character Builder certainly assisted in organizing the cumbersome process of character creation and maintenance, though its reliance on Silverlight was an issue for some. The Monster Builder was useful for certain functions, but other user-created tools (i.e., Masterplan) offered greater flexibility and functionality at a lower cost for designing and organizing monsters. Meanwhile, the Virtual Tabletop and was abandoned altogether, and other promised DM Tools never surfaced. Wizards of the Coast and Trapdoor Technologies, the development team for Codename: Morningstar, set out to renew hope that a functional digital toolset for the new edition of Dungeons & Dragon was possible.

Codename: Morningstar reintroduced itself as DungeonScape at Gen Con this summer. Since hosting a number of prominent online community members to demonstrate the functionality of DungeonScape, the team has attempted to answer questions and roll out a working product for players of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. A beta project was underway, and it seemed as if DungeonScape would soon be released. However, Trapdoor Technologies announced last month they would no longer be partners with Wizards of the Coast. Wizards followed up with a brief statement saying that the relationship with Trapdoor Technologies had been terminated, leaving the future of a licensed digital toolset for 5th Edition up in the air.

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Dungeon Master’s Guide Preview: Building Memorable NPCs

The cover for the new Dungeon Master’s Guide features a powerful lich who bears a striking resemblance to Iddy the Lich, the mascot for this blog. I have joked about Iddy being on the cover of the DMG on occasion through Twitter with team members from Wizards of the Coast in the hope that they would allow me to preview some pages before the book is released. Without burying the lead, the team at Wizards was gracious enough to send me two pages from the manual to share with the community!

If you Photoshop his staff to hold a d6, then it's basically the same character!

You would not like Iddy when he’s angry!

Many of the articles I have written about Dungeons & Dragons and tabletop gaming have been influenced by my background as a licensed psychologist. The team at Wizards thought it was fitting to provide me with two pages with details on how to create non-playable characters (NPCs) with personality. Below, I present the pages on NPCs, demonstrate how to use the tables to create four NPCs, and discuss how the Big Five personality traits can be used to develop memorable NPCs.

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Simple Online Gaming for Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons

Computer Dragon

This is what I think I look like running online gaming sessions!

My first session of Hoard of the Dragon Queen was a good experience of what I hope is a long-living campaign. Since getting local friends together for consistent gaming sessions proved difficult, I decided to attempt running an online game. By doing this I was able to expand the potential pool of players, and after a week or so of organization and scheduling I found six players who could commit to weekly sessions. There is always something new to learn about running an effective gaming session in a face-to-face setting, and there are plenty of things for me to learn about running online sessions effectively. Below I discuss a few suggestions about setup, communication, combat, and space based on a few early sessions of Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons as a player and DM.

Setup

When setting up a face-to-face campaign, I have found that the first session is often a combination of character creation and a brief start to an adventure. Online gaming presents a bit of a challenge because players are often creating their PC in isolation from the other players and the first session thrusts players right into the adventure. To address this, I set out to increase the amount of collaboration among the players before the sessions even started.

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