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Drama vs. Realism vs. Game: Scenes

The Tempest by Thomas ColeThe heroes are in the middle of a political campaign, trying to win the support of the populace for their next effort. A key constituency is the kobolds of the Kobold Ghetto, and the players have decided to gain its favor by showing the kobolds that they have a lot in common. They decide to help out in the mines, buy drinks for kobolds at the local taverns, hand out coins, and generally do a lot of little things that add up to the support of the kobolds.

What happens next?

Realism

In a realistic scenario, the heroes would spend a lot of time doing hard work—10-hour days in silver mines, for at least a few weeks, which is long enough for the heroes to earn the respect of the kobolds. Realistically, a lot of it’s going to be boring. The heroes might get a pulled muscle or a stubbed toe, but not much else.

Drama

How can we make this dramatic? The rules of writing fiction suggest the use of scenes to make the game more exciting. A scene, simply put, is one group of characters at one location at one time, where someone wants something and there is an obstacle to them achieving that.

Let’s break down this task that the players are trying to accomplish into scenes. In scene 1, heroes are at a mine, trying to prove they have the chops. But our heroes are not miners, so they are learning. Perhaps the boss kobold is a bit of a bully, and he keeps throwing obstacles into the path of the heroes, such as “forgetting” to provide them with lanterns, assigning them to a dangerous area, and requiring that they collect a quota of ore before time runs out.

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Collection of Curiosities: The Reflection Pool

"Jiro the Kobold" by Pat LoboykoWater stretches out before you, reflecting the sky above. But what is within the pool? Perhaps the water element has more than just water in it! You can roll randomly for a result below, or use the handy number provided with each entry to figure out your result on a d12. You can also pick the one that works for the area in which your characters currently linger.

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Prepared!

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone by Thomas MoranSo your players went off on a tangent…

We’ve all been there. Sometimes it’s unavoidable; you’re staring at ten single-spaced pages of adventure you wrote last week and your party just walked… right… by. Prepared! offers you solutions to player tangents while you figure out your next move.

Unexpected traveling can be a stressful situation for a GM to facilitate. You want to provide your players with something more than: “It takes about four hours to get there. It…uh…rains a little.” Below are four snappy scenarios that can be used when your party engages in a little impromptu road wandering.

The Disbanded Circus

Who They Are: Tamby and Godgerman’s traveling circus was destined to fail. The party encounters a small remnant of the circus as this group travels to a nearby civilized center to sell circus gear and find new work. These sad folk have two horse-drawn wagon cages full of nearly dead animals.

What They Want: To reach civilization and forget the whole awful experience. Information on the road ahead would be welcome.

General Disposition Toward Strangers: Suspicious, ranging to ambivalent.

Plot Hook: The circus was disbanded when trained giant spiders turned on the ringmaster. The disbanded circus workers fear the spiders have been stalking them…

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Report from the Southlands: The Editorial Side

Southlands ScarabGreetings, Southlanders!

In just a few short months, the Southlands sourcebook and all the project’s shiny add-ons will be in your hands, at your tables, and ready to provide your gaming groups with unlimited adventures beneath the pitiless sun. We can’t wait to see what GMs and players do with the myriad story hooks, rich traditions, dastardly villains, and brave heroes—all inspired by the Arabian Nights and ancient Egypt—that the project will offer.

But! Before all that goodness can happen, the book has to wind its way through the editorial process even before it heads to layout, proofing, and printing. And that editorial process is where I come in.

I’ve been working with portions of the core Southlands text for about the past three months, and I have to say, it’s been an incredibly fun ride. I’ve taken tours of the River Kingdom of Nuria Natal, the Dominion of the Wind Lords, the High Jungles, the perilous East and West, the Abandoned Lands, and the Southern Fringe. I’ve explored the strange traditions of lotus magic and combat divinations, and I’ve learned the ways of the proud Lion Kingdom of Omphaya and the Narumbeki legions. I’ve even peered into the disturbing lives of the insectoid tosculi, which build hives that engulf ruins and thriving communities alike.

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Gaming and the Busy Adult

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, If you’re anything like me, you started playing roleplaying games sometime in your teens. You know, back when it was nothing to start a game Friday night, pass out from exhaustion early Saturday morning, wake up at noon and continue from the night before with a quick lunch of leftover pizza. Then one day you wake up and realize that you haven’t had a decent game session in almost a year thanks to your job, bills, and responsibilities to your family. Even thinking about staying up all night makes you tired. Most times it’s a slow decline; for some people it happens the second they move out to college or to follow a career.

How do you find the time to play? How do you get started again once your flow has been disrupted? How do you organize a group of your own?

The honest answer is this: Hard work and a whole lot of luck.

The more helpful answer is to take a look at the things I’ve learned over the years and see if you can apply them to your search for games.

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