Thursday, August 30, 2018

More tricks of the GM's trade from Troll Lord Games

Being a GM, DM, or CK is a tricky business. You must be able to think on the fly, keep people engaged and lead them down the path to adventure. Bogged down in the minutiae? Stuck in a dungeon? It's important to lead the players to the best game they can have. That's why our CEO and founder, Stephen Chenault -- a gamer for over 40 years and CK that can keep a game of 20 plus moving smoothly -- has put together another 5 gems guaranteed to give you your best game.
#1: This is going to sound kind of weird. But when running the game you are going to make notes, so be sure to make them legible. Take the extra 2 seconds. I rarely do and my notes are a jumbled mess of stuff I can hardly read. I’m constantly having to compare notes with one of my players, Mac Golden (we’ve been gaming together since ’84, co-creator of Castles & Crusades), to figure out what I wrote 7 weeks ago, because I can’t read my hand writing (see image).

#2: Two of the best ways to toughen a monster are increased AC and damage reduction. Characters at mid to high level can deal an extraordinary amount of damage. A high AC mitigates that and makes the encounter challenging. Far more enjoyable is damage reduction. Knowing they are hitting a monster, but that it has survived the terrible storm, makes players begin to question the very actions they are taking. Don't hesitate to adjust AC or add damage reduction.
#3: If you are running a campaign, which I almost always do, you will probably have to recap the previous week’s game. Try to keep the recaps very short. I try to never recap more than 3 minutes. This isn’t always possible. Some players may have missed the last game. Some just can’t remember what went on or they have other things going on that distract them from the game (like Ferris Bueller said, “Life comes at you fast”). If it’s going to take very long, turn the recap over to the players, pick one player and ask them what their character did, the others will almost inevitably join in. This serves three purposes: 1) recaps nicely 2) and this is the most important….it involves the players in a Q/A so you don’t dominate the table for the first 30 minutes of the game and 3) allows you a few minutes to get some last-minute notes done. As a complete side note, if YOU can’t remember what went on, it will save you the embarrassment.
#4: Healing should not be a passive act. Describe it much as you would a battle description. “You have to grab the flesh and pinch it together, the blood wells up and around your hand, soaking your garments. You breathe the blessings of your god across the wound and the flesh mends, though it is mottled blue and black from the terrible bruising.” After you’ve done this a few times, players will get into the spirit of things and you can turn the action over to them. Then you can ask, “What do you do to heal them…?”

#5: When a game is going bad and you are losing the interest of the players, bring in an encounter. Make it sudden and fast. This should not be a punitive encounter, it is not vindictive or to punish the players for not paying attention. After all, the fault is yours, you lost them or bored them. Use the encounter to get everyone’s attention and get their adrenaline pumping. Nothing brings someone back to the table like “Roll for initiative.” Keep it fun, but dangerous.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Gencon Incident

A shoving incident involving the President of GAMA has escalated to the point that a police report has been filed. No word yet as to whether charges will be filed. Here is the official GAMA board statement on the incident and here is GAMA President and Iello Head Stephan Brissaud' statement.

And then there is this: The GAMA board has opted not to renew the contract of GAMA Executive Director John Ward

Friday, August 24, 2018

4 More Tricks of the Trade

Stephen Chenault, of Troll Lord Games, presents 4 more ways to improve your game as the DM:

Being a GM, DM, or CK is a tricky business. You must be able to think on the fly, keep people engaged and lead them down the path to adventure. Bogged down in the minutiae? Stuck in a dungeon? It's important to lead the players to the best game they can have. That's why our CEO and founder, Stephen Chenault -- a gamer for over 40 years and CK that can keep a game of 20 plus moving smoothly -- has put together another 5 gems guaranteed to give you your best game.
#1: Liven up your combat. Key words can go a long way. For example, you might suffer 1d8 points of damage from the club or the blow to their shield may have driven the iron of it back into your nose and cheek, lacerating the flesh and as the shield arm numbs from the blow the taste of blood seeps into your mouth.
#2: RPGs are not just about dungeons. Dungeons are in RPGs. Overland adventures allow you far more control over the game, its pace, tone and direction. In dungeons you are limited to direction, terrain and encounters. There are none of those limitations outdoors. Terrain changes, weather changes, encounters can be wild and varied. Dungeons can be fun, but they can drag out and allow you little room to maneuver.
#3: It’s really best to establish a procedure at the table. I generally run combat rounds from my right to left. After a few minutes everyone knows what to expect and who I am about to call on. Not only does this bring order to the table and allow people time to think and prepare reactions, study abilities, etc. but it also allows the GM even more control as you can, without warning, shake up the order. At times you’ll need to go out of order as something happens to a character to the left first. Whether it is necessary, or something you do to shake things up, going out of order serves two purposes a) it can quickly draw someone who is bored back to the table and b) creates a heightened level of suspense as most players, already used to the structure, pay attention to figure out why things are suddenly out of order.
#4: Allow players to roll initiative each round, no matter what the rules call for. It makes the combat unpredictable, allowing chance to play an even greater roll, and gives one more opportunity for an exciting, battle-changing roll. It also gives the player even more to do at the table. And, as always, rolling dice is just plain fun and rolling initiative 10 times in a combat as opposed to one is that much more fun.

#5: Be fluid at the table. Be ready to adjust the scenario quickly. Move terrain you had pre-planned, change NPC personalities you had pre-planned. Characters who go into an encounter expecting X will be thrown off guard and secretly surprised when they encounter Y. This goes for role playing to actual mechanics. Changing the order of play as noted in #3 above is a good example of this. But far beyond that, be able to shift gears according to player characters.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

4 Reasons to Play RPGs

Four Reasons Why You (and Your Kids) Should Play D&D Or Other RPGS

Such as Runequest or Tunnels and Trolls or Star Wars or Spirt of the Century or Adventure Maximus. Why  is pretty well summed up in this article that ran in The Hollywood Reporter back in 2016.  I happened to run across it again while looking for the recent interview Steven Colbert conducted with Joe Manganiello, ostensibly over Manganiello’s new Death Saves clothing line but which deviated into a discussion of whether rolling 3 d6 or 4 d6 is preferable when rolling up a character (It’s 4D6 if you are in my game) and probably the longest discussion about D&D on late night TV, as least as far as I know.
Anyhow, the Hollywood Reporter article points out three reasons why  people in the entertainment industry gravitated to D&D and why playing or running it (or any tabletop RPG for that matter) can help you or your kids:
1.        Worldbuilding and What-if scenarios.  D. B. Weiss, showrunner for Game of Thrones, says playing D&D was perfect preparation for the world building necessary for creating the sprawling storylines that GOT encompasses.  Every session, he as the DM had to develop worlds in which his players could adventures and run through dozens of What-if scenarios in his head as he had to prepare for the likelihood that his players would do something completely different than what he had prepared, opting to venture into the dark woods instead of the intricately designed castle dungeon looming before them (something every game master has had happen to them). Meanwhile, Pendleton Ward, the mind behind Adventure Time, credits his years playing D&D, with its monsters with their unique instincts and motivations and habitats, as a huge influence in creating the Land of Ooo.
2.       Storytelling—David Beinoff, also a showrunner for Game of Thrones, credits D&D with honing his storytelling skills, learning through practice what hooks an audience and what sent them nodding off.  Even today, if the story the game master tells is engaging, the players stay riveted on their words. Lose their attention, and players pull out their smartphones and start scrolling through their Instagram feeds. A good story can keep players sitting around the table for hours and thousands more watching on various Twitch feeds, as Critical Role does.
3.       Acting and Improvisation—Mike Drucker, a writer on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, says that playing D&D “makes you think on your feet and commit”.  At its best, when the gamemaster is not simplify reading material from a prepared scenario, a game transforms into a session of improvisational theater with players responding to what the gamemaster says and the gamemaster then riffing on the responses from the players.
Socialization—Deborah Ann Woll, one of the stars of NetFlix’ Daredevil implies this when she said, in response to plans for yet another D&D movie:  “The adventures I’ve had in Dungeons & Dragons will always be more exciting than anything they could put on a screen “because it was me and I lived it, and it was spontaneous. That’s just always going to be more exciting.”  The interaction among players helps draw players out of their shells and interact with others. Dozens of parents over the years have told me how much their kids loved playing D&D and other RPGS and how doing so helped them learn to deal with other people

Thursday, August 16, 2018

GM's Tricks of the Trade

This is the third in a sporadic series of emails sent out by Troll Lord Games on becoming a better GM:

Being a GM, DM, or CK is a tricky business. You must be able to think on the fly, keep people engaged and lead them down the path to adventure. Bogged down in the minutiae? Stuck in a dungeon? It's important to lead the players to the best game they can have. That's why our CEO and founder, Stephen Chenault -- a gamer for over 40 years and CK that can keep a game of 20 plus moving smoothly -- has put together another 5 gems guaranteed to give you your best game.
#1: One of the GM’s major tools are their descriptions. Whether the characters are in a dungeon or wandering overland, in a battle or talking to an NPC, describing the scene and the monsters and people is a key part of the table top experience. When describing things don’t forget smell and sounds. Describe what the see, but tell them how it smells, try to relate it to something they might already know, such as fresh baked bread. The sounds of things too are important. These senses can bring someone into a scene like nothing else.

#2: Don’t underestimate simple adventures. A quick adventure with a very simple plot can be loads of fun. A hunt, transporting an item, a 3-room barrow mound. Include 1-2 NPCs and allow for lots of role playing. These adventures are easy to prepare for and can fill up several hours with no problem and really engage the players.
#3: Try not to allow anyone get lost at the table. If someone is not participating or allowing others to run their characters, figure out what skills they have and adjust the situation enough to give them reason to make a check. It can be any kind of attribute check, from something as simple as discerning an NPC’s intent to as complex as tracking a wild boar. One simple check can bring someone to the table quickly.
#4: A great way to break in a new player to most role-playing games and teach them the game’s mechanics quickly is with terrain, specifically swimming a river. Crossing the river can require a great many different attribute checks, from intelligence and perception in finding the best area to swim, to the actual act of swimming with dexterity, and even strength and constitution in surviving the swim. Crossing a river can easily require 4-5 different attribute checks. And as importantly, you can control the outcome by mitigating the challenge level you assign, the challenge level can change constantly (it need not be only one check to swim) and if things go poorly hidden material under the water can offer more attribute checks, allowing a drowning character the chance to grab hold of something or stand on it. Once the river is crossed, the new player should have a better understanding of the mechanics.

#5: Rolling dice is fun! Obviously, the GM has to make many of the rolls. But, whenever you can yield a roll to the players, do so. Don’t roll to see if the horse bolts, allow them to roll to see if they can better control the horse. If they want to do something, have them make an attribute check, you can govern the outcome with bonuses and penalties, but allow them to make the check.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Why You Should Play D&D

I was reading this article on Hollywood types that play Dungeons and Dragons and noted that it points out three good reasons to play D&D:

1. Encourages creativity.  Game of Thrones, Adventure Time, World of Warcraft, heck any fantasy video game, any video game at all that was released in the last 20 years has its roots in the developers playing D&D in their youth

2. Encourages spontaneity--in order to play or run D&D, you have to be able to think on your feet, either as the player responding to what the DM throws at you or as the Dungeon Master responding to the things the player has just done. Imagine that you have created an entire adventure based on the players going  into a castle and they decide to explore the forest outside. What do you do then?

3 Worldbuilding--A Dungeon master has the entire world, either meticulously or hazily, in their mind and develops dozens if not hundreds of "what if" scenarios:  “I played compulsively for years,” admits D.B. Weiss, the 45-year-old Game of Thronesshowrunner, who says infatuation with Dungeons & Dragons during his teenage years in Chicago was the perfect preparation for his current job. “It was my first experience with world-building,” he explains. “You’d see hundreds of ‘what if’ scenarios play out in real time as players attempted to achieve their various goals "

Thursday, August 9, 2018

How To Sell (or Trade) Us Cards

Since nearly every day we have someone bringing in cards for us to look at for either sale or trade, here are a few things you can do to make the process quicker and less frustrating for you:

1.  Bring in what we carry. We do not deal in sports trading cards or non-sports trading cards such as Marvel or DC card sets. 2 or 3 times a month we have someone bring in sets of cards that we just do not have the expertise or customer base to deal in and we will send you elsewhere.

2. Know what you want to trade and what we are looking for. Please do no not bring in your binder, open it and ask us to go through it and pull out cards in which we are interested. That is very time consuming. We have a list of cards we are interested in posted behind the counter and also on the store website..

3. Call to find out when we can look at your cards. If you show up 15 minutes before close with cards, we are going to ask you to come back. Similarly, if you come in during times we are processing shipments, typically Tuesday and Thursday before 2, we will ask you to come back another time. Busy days such as Friday and Saturday are also not good days to come

4. Know our policies on buying. We pay cash or store credit for Magic, but store credit only, due to problems with stolen collections, for Pokemon and Yu Gi Oh. Do not drive here expecting to get cash for your Yu Gi Oh or Pokemon cards

5. Know our policies on bulk collections. We have a room full of bulk Magic, Yu Gi Oh and Pokemon and really do not want to add to it. We are interested in Magic cards valued at $2 and up, full art, GX and EX Pokemon, and Yu Gi Oh on a case by case basis.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Record GenCon Attendance

Another record setting year for Gencon with over 60000 people attending, a 16% increase from last year and $70 million pumped into the Indianapolis economy.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Legendary 10th Anniversary Set

Coming Mid August:

Legendary: Marvel: 10th Anniversary
$49.99 SRP
Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the global theatrical phenomenon known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this limited edition addition to the Legendary® family of deck-building card games features star-studded, action-packed, iconic imagery pulled directly from Marvel’s phase one collection of movies. In this game, you are leading fan favorite Marvel Super Heroes like Captain American, Iron Man, and Thor to trounce Super Villains! This limited edition release is 100% compatible with all previous Legendary Marvel releases, theatrical or comics based, for countless combinations of seamless scenarios.


  • 393 Playable Cards
  • Color Rule Book
  • Rubber Play mat

Thursday, August 2, 2018

5 GM Tricks of the Trade

From an email sent out by Troll Lord Games this week, 5 useful tips for GMs from Head Troll Stephen Chenault:

Being a GM, DM, or CK is a tricky business. You must be able to think on the fly, keep people engaged and lead them down the path to adventure. Bogged down in the minutiae? Stuck in a dungeon? It's important to lead the players to the best game they can have. That's why our CEO and founder, Stephen Chenault -- a gamer for over 40 years and CK that can keep a game of 20 plus moving smoothly -- has put together these top 5 gems guaranteed to give you your best game.
#1: Always keep the pace moving. As soon as the game slows, people start looking at distractions and it’s difficult to get them back on track.
#2: Try not to single people out. When it comes to their turn to react, look to make sure they are comfortable. If they are not, and are being shy, give them more context, draw the attention away from their character and themselves and put it back on you. It is easiest to do this with more descriptive text. Describe the encounter, with smells and sounds as it is happened. This may allow them time to formulate a response and will definitely take the attention away from them.
#3: Don’t play their character. Allow them to choose their own actions and describe them. If they don’t, it is better to coach them. “When you swing, do you stab with the sword and use a cutting motion?” The more you coach a player, the sooner they get into the groove of things.
#4: Playing mood music is good, but make sure it doesn’t drown out what you are doing. Worse than that is choosing music that may aggravate someone. Choose music that has the right mood, but is not destructive.

#5: Don’t be afraid to damage equipment. Do it in every battle. This will pay in the end. If players are used to their character’s equipment being damaged then it opens up future opportunities to you, the GM. If in combat session a character is getting close to death with low hit points, you can allow continue suffering by damaging equipment without killing the character. It all seems quite natural to the player as it is a common enough theme in your game. Plus it gives them something to spend their money on.