DM’s Corner: Involvement & Investment

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A formidable challenge can come in the form of keeping players involved in your campaign. It’s one thing to be able to keep an audience as you tell your story, it is quite another to have your players actively involved in the telling of that story. Finding ways for your players to contribute directly to an adventure is a good way to increase their involvement, and investment, in the gaming experience.

 

To start, when your players create their characters, have them connect their backstories to your world. This could be as simple as a few sentences describing the character’s homeland or relation to the region, or as elaborate or complex as you and your party care to be. By making a players character a real part of the world, and not a mere generic Fighter that has magically teleported into the game, you add the first layer of investment for your party to experience.

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Now, as your players explore the world, allow them to aid in the descriptions of the region. While your role as storyteller and referee means you will be setting the stage for major and important locations, let your players aid in describing areas of less impact to your plot. When the party arrives at the inn, have each PC take a sentence to describe the building or the patrons. This allows the players to help create a part of the world that fits their imagination, and lets them contribute to the world building in a noninvasive way.

 

Note, however, that this is never meant to be an exploit. A player should never be able to say, “I enter the bar and see the King sitting along on a chest of gold, unguarded! How convenient!” Rather, let them describe the meals, the atmosphere, the quirks of the place. It’s okay to let these descriptions impact your story, so long as the main plot is not derailed in the process. For example, a player may describe the odor of a particular variety of tobacco in the inn, and you can choose to allow that to be a hook, or just a unique descriptor. The important point is player involvement.

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Taking this a step further, if your party is encountering a generic NPC, have the players name and describe the character. For your purposes the party has met a traveling merchant; For your party, it is irrelevant to the plot who the merchant is beyond his existence as a vendor, so let them have some fun! Let your layers give him a short description and even story for why he’s a merchant here. Then, take a few notes, and have that same merchant return later! Players will care immensely more about a region if they know the NPCs, even more so if they have an investment from having aided in their creation.

 

Lastly, allow your players to do some Extra Credit. This can take many forms, so let your players tailor their extra work to their personal talents. Perhaps one player is artistic and sketches or paints his character, reward that! Perhaps one is a writer and delved into a side story his character went on. Reward it! Perhaps your player is a musician and wrote a baric ballad, or is a businessman and designed the guilds of a city, or a math wiz and came up with the economy for a region. Encourage this, and give small kickbacks in the form of gold and experience points, or even items, based on the amount of work done. Now, you should not unbalance a game when rewarding Extra Credit, but you should encourage and reward a player’s work. A good rule of thumb is to reward an encounter’s worth of wealth or experience for an amount of work that an encounter’s worth of time to complete.

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What are some ways you have contributed to a DM’s world? In what ways have you gotten players invested, or invested in a world yourself? How much work have you put into developing a character’s backstory? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Every Wednesday is RPG Night at Pawn & Pint! Not only do DM’s and GM’s play free, anyone who spends more than $5 triggers our House Rule and earns a Token worth a dice Re-Roll! Mention this article and you’ll receive an additional Re-Roll Token to use in your game! As you play your favorite RPGs, don’t forget the golden rule of all gaming…

Have Fun!

How to Teach Board Games : The Pawns And Pints Way

“If you look at page 97 of the rule book, you will see that the demogorgon may become an issue, therefore, in order to best attack, you shall have to utilize one of 18 flanking strategies, which I shall carefully explain to you right now….”

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We’ve all experienced it. We sit down to play a game with some friends, and a knowledgeable player begins “teaching” us the game – but, while this knowledgeable friend may know a lot about the game, all to frequently, they don’t know much about how to teach.

Therefore, I figured I would utilize my teaching background(I taught school for 2 years and have a masters of education), to develop and adapt a system for teaching board games which is simply to learn and will reduce the amount of time explaining a game a game and increase the time playing!

The basic concept is very simple : Simply explain what the player needs to know at first, and avoid complex explanations, tips, or analysis. 

Concept

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The first trick to teaching the game is having a concept easily accessible to explain to your players. This can be as simple as referencing it to a game they’ve already played: “It’s like Monopoly but…”, or reading or paraphrasing something off the back of the box.

This should always be kept to 2-4 sentences and not take more than 30 seconds to communicate.

Here are some example of good concept statements:

Pathogenesis is a deck building game in which you play as the germs fighting against the body.”

Red Dragon Inn is a card game where a bunch of adventurers try to get each other drunk with different abilities.”

 

The basic rule is this – KEEP IT SIMPLE. Avoid extraneous information, and communicate the basic concept.

Objective Of the Game

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The objective of the game should be explained in similarly simple terms to the concept. It should be distinct from explaining the concept, but it should be simply stated.

For example:

The objective of Monopoly is to gather more money than the other players and cause them to go bankrupt.

The objective of Risk is to take over the world.

Again, you do not need to go into depth, you simply need to present the basic concept of the game, so as you continue to explain the game, the players will understand what information will help them win.

 

Set Up

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There are two schools of thought on set up – one is that you can teach them how to set up the first time they play, and that way they will never forget – the other is, set up for them, and after they play the game, they will understand the set up.

Personally, I prefer to set up the game and get the players rolling, but there is merit to both strategies. The benefit of explaining it as you go is that they can pick up some of the set up as you go, the downside is, the chances are they aren’t listening, and the information is extraneous unless they decide they love the game.

Win Conditions

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This is where you can start to get into the nitty gritty. Most modern games have cards that have the win conditions very clearly expanded, but it’s worth it typically to verbally go through the win conditions exactly, so all of the players understand how to do it. If they are not written down somewhere on the game box, I recommend writing them down on a piece of paper for the group.

Although you will want to explain things in a more technical sense here, I still reccomend doing it as simply as possible. For example:

Example of Clearly Explained Win Conditions:

In Red Dragon Inn, you win once all the other party members have “passed out” drunk because their fortitude has become lower than their alcohol content. They also lose if they ever run out of gold. 

Example of Poorly Explained Win Conditions:

In Red Dragon Inn, you win once you have managed to get all of the other players counters to cross. The fortitude can either be reduced to zero, or the alcohol content can be increased, but if and when they ever match up with one another, or pass one another, that player is knocked out. By gambling you can get them to lose money, which can also help you win. 

The difference between these two is how clear the first one is – it’s short, it doesn’t drag on, and doesn’t get to deep into the mechanics.

End Conditions

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End conditions, like win conditions, need to be explained in exact turns. Simply state them as such:

The game ends when ______ occurs, or _____________.

Again, I highly reccomend writing this down for the players or directing them to a clear statement on the game which explains when the game ends.

Turn Walk Through

The next step is to take the players through a turn – it is typically worth it to do this with each player playing at least once, because they will frequently not be paying attention while it is there friends turn. This will differ depending on the game, but in games that have a hidden “hand” of cards, it is typically worth revealing them as you walk them through one turn, clearly delineating each “phase” of there turn.

Extra Rules

If there is anything absolutely necessary to add, add it at this point, but otherwise, if the rules are – like with most games, written on the cards or only happen with certain conditions which will reveal and clearly state that the rule is now in effect – simply warn the players about it, without going in to too much detail.

Shut Up, Stand Back, Answer Questions

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The most important thing to remember to do when teaching games is to stop talking and let the players play. If the players seem to be picking up a bit, as early as their first round of turns, stop talking and just watch and be willing to answer their questions. The longer you talk, the longer it will take for them to genuinely have fun – part of the joy of playing games is figuring them out to a certain degree.

That being said, being knowledgeable of the rules and be ready to answer questions. Knowing how to answer players questions concisely and helpfully, will help them get into the game and have a great time!

Here is a list of things we recommend you DO while teaching board games:

  • Understand the game inside and out.
  • Review it before teaching it.
  • Be prepared with concise statements about the game.
  • Be ready to answer questions.

Here are some things which we highly recommend you DO NOT do while teaching board games:

  • Talk about strategies, art designs, similar games or anything not relevant to how to play the game while you are teaching it.
  • Judge the players or look down at them for choosing a specific game.
  • Act irritated when players ask you the same question.
  • Narrate the game experience past the first turn.

If you follow these simple tips – we are confident that you shall be able to teach board games to all your friends and have a good time! If you think you are an expert board game teacher, send me an email at edward@PawnsAndPints.com, we are always looking for more game gurus!

Also, don’t forget to back us on Kickstarter – which is your only chance to get the highly discounted Kickstarter annual membership for $150 – only 8 days remain!

Furthermore, please follow us on twitter, facebook and instagram, and check out our lead DM’s continuing blog posts and twitter feed!

And please – comment with your best strategies for teaching games – what works for you? What doesn’t?

Dungeon Master Minute: The DM Train

Every day at the Pawn and Pint, we have a cool daily feature – today’s is a blog post from Donald the DM! 

One of the more challenging aspects of running a successful RPG Campaign is ensuring that your party actually progresses from Point A to Point B of the plot without getting so horridly sidetracked that the story falls beyond repair. Today we will discuss techniques for keeping your story, and your players, on task.

The first and best piece of advice we can give any DM is: Do Not abuse the DM Train!

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Players board the DM Train when they are “Railroaded” in the story, that is, forced to go from one plot point to the other without a chance to change course or interrupt flow. While in certain circumstances this is necessary, even enjoyable, for the experience of the players, it is also the easiest way to abuse story telling. The fun of RPGs comes largely from the open world and the player’s ability to impact their course and destiny. The trick becomes accomplishing this without losing the story’s trail.

One method to consider is Burying the Lead.

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Oooh shiny? 

Purposefully take your major plot points and hold them in reserve, allowing the lesser characteristics of your story to take center stage. Then, regardless of the path your players choose to follow, you can introduce your major plot threads at your convenience. For example, your players have a choice between exploring an old mine, an abandoned mansion or a drained quarry. No matter which they choose, you have the players uncover the same plot related artifact in that location. The players have chosen their path, and you have your story hook.

Another easy method to consider is World Consequence.

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Wait… the 24 hour plot to blow up the city was time sensitive? 

If the players wish to stray away from the rumors of a new Lich building an army of Undead, let them. Then, three weeks later, mention how much worse it is getting. If they continue to ignore this plot thread, have it continue to grow unchecked. Eventually, let the Lich and his full Army come crashing down on the players. They had every chance to interact with the story, now the story may interact with them! Remember that your world is not stagnant, and world events change the story whether or not the players are active. Let them know that their actions, or lack there of, will impact the story.

Finally, remember to Bait the Hook.clickbit

Give your players incentive or reason to want to see your story told. If they’re not initially invested, give them incentive or reason to want to see your story told. If they’re not initially invested, give them a reason to want to see your story told. If they’re not initially invested, give them incentive or reason to want to see your story told. If they’re not initially invested, give them reason to be. Perhaps the rumors of a far off King abusing power is remote and disinteresting, but have that King’s influence harm the players actions or things in the story they have become attached to, and suddenly it becomes personal. Now the King is interfering with the party, and they have a vested interest in seeing him vanquished.

Curious about other techniques you can use to keep your story moving in a positive direction? Join us at Pawn & Pint for our RPG Workshops with Donald The DM where we discuss world building, character generation, creative story telling and learn new RPGs! These Workshops are Free to our Members, or $5 at the Door for any others interested in attending. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see our Events Calendars and plan to join us for our next Workshop!

Don’t forget, every Wednesday is RPG Day! Mention This Post and you’ll also receive a Free Ticket that allows you to Re-Roll One Dice in any RPG you play while at Pawn & Pint!

And did we mention? If you’re running an RPG at Pawn & Pint, DMs always play for Free!

Daily Feature: Ion Cannons

Every day, we do a different awesome daily feature – sometimes these are simply games we love in our collection, other times they are new games we are adding, and occasionally they are awesome tid bits about different games we love in the form of glorious blog posts – this is Donald’s take on Ion Cannons!

Typically the most underutilized Weapon Upgrade that can change the course of a Dogfight is the effective implementation of an Ion Cannon. A well placed shot that delivers an Ion Token to the target can be a deciding factor in the outcome of a battle. Today we look at the benefits, and drawbacks, to using Ion Cannons in X-Wing Strategies.

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Does consistency enrich the Role Play Experience?

One common occurrence in roleplaying games of all sorts is people completely changing their characters personality with their mood – or editing their back story to help them build the most “interesting character”. Sometimes this results in very cool characters that players are really proud of and invested in and that’s great. Other times, it creates very shallow characters which are simply small reflections of the players own perspective. The question I am thus asking is this – “Does Roleplaying a consistent character actually enrich the long standing role play experience?”

In order to discover my own answer to this question, I(Edward Schmalz) am embarking on the quest of playing a consistent roleplaying character, a Night Elf Druid on Moonguard, one of the RolePlaying Servers.

Continue reading “Does consistency enrich the Role Play Experience?”

Dungeon Master Minute: Pacing & Immersion

We shall be doing a daily feature every day this Month. Some Features will be new games revealed, some will be short write ups, others will be descriptions of games we have in our collection. This feature is a bit of content written by Donald the DM! 

The crux of any good role playing experience is to maintain immersion. Nothing will break immersion quicker in your game than pausing the climactic battle to spend ten minutes flipping through charts and rereading the exact particulars of abilities in the rule book. To minimize this, it is your job as the Dungeon Master to keep the story flowing without getting hung up on particulars.

Continue reading “Dungeon Master Minute: Pacing & Immersion”

Let the Whiskey Win – Introducing Pawn and Pint’s Next Star Wars X-Wing League

The time is coming soon, when beer and liquor shall be available at the Pawn and Pint – and as such, the next league at P&P shall be slightly alcohol themed.

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The league will run from January 31 to March 7. [6 Weeks]

Participation in the league will be free for members at Pawn and Pint and simply cost the $5 Pay to Play for non members.

Continue reading “Let the Whiskey Win – Introducing Pawn and Pint’s Next Star Wars X-Wing League”