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Game Master Diaries #6: Making Maps

This week is all about maps! From large-scale global maps, to city maps and dungeon maps, you should never leave home without some amount of cartographic preparation. Different GMs use maps differently, and the style of your adventure may require more or fewer maps than you typically would use, but unless your story is completely abstract when it comes to physical space, there will come a time when you need a map. If you were to peek behind my game master screen during a typical RPG session, you would see somewhere between two and five maps on average. Some of these maps are there simply for reference and may not come into play at all, but others are essential to maintaining the flow and cohesion of the game. In this post we’re going to talk about the different types of maps and how I like to use them in play; if that sounds like fun, buckle up! (If that doesn’t sound like fun, nobody is forcing you to read about it, but we will probably look down on you a little bit.) Read More…

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Game Master Diaries #5: My Characters Concluded

Today is the final installment of the character close-ups that focus on the character creation and backstory process for each of the five player characters in my one-shot. Next week we will move on to a new aspect of Game Mastering, either making maps or dungeon design, I’m not sure yet which will be first. In the mean time, sit back, relax, and let me introduce you to Dmitri Hillseeker, the half-giant ranger, and Stanley Upton, the young human monk. Read More…

Game Master Diaries #4.5: My Characters Continued

After a couple weeks of negligence due to preparing my other campaign for a long-awaited session (and also general laziness), Game Master Diaries are back! I am doing the rest of my characters this week, so I’ll be sticking them together into two posts with two per post, that way we can get on with something new next week. In this post we get to meet Jebediah Crushbone, the half-orc rogue, and Craig Craghammer, the dwarf wizard. Read More…

Game Master Diaries #4: My Characters

The time has now come to share the characters I have brewed up with you. For each of them I will share the character concept, some notes about the process that went into designing the character, and a brief background sketch of that character. All good parties have a leader, and that is who we’re starting with today. Allow me to introduce you to Bartholomew Goodbarrow, the halfling paladin. Read More…

Game Master Diaries #3: Developing Backstories

Last week I mentioned the idea of backstories briefly in an example, and as I was thinking about what to do for the next post I realized that this is a concept that needs to be talked about in more detail before we leave character creation behind. Unless your character is literally a newborn, they have a past, a history, a backstory, and that backstory can inform their choices and actions in the game just as much as the things written on the character sheet, perhaps even more. Everyone in your game needs some amount of backstory, from the players to the background NPCs to the monsters they fight in a dungeon. Even if you don’t end up using the elements of the backstory, it is still important to make them more real characters with motivations and a history. Nobody just comes out of nowhere, fully formed with no history, that’s not how things work, and it makes for flat, uninteresting storytelling. So let’s talk about the different kinds of backstories that you can use for your characters and NPCs to make your world a more well-rounded place. Read More…

Game Master Diaries #2: Building Character(s)

Now that we have the setting figured out, it is time to tackle the most important part of any story: the characters. In an RPG, unlike most other forms of storytelling, the characters are not controlled by one person. That is the challenge and beauty of this collaborative way to tell stories. Each person brings a unique voice to the story and each character will be different, depending on who the player controlling that character is. Getting a good balance between interesting, dynamic player characters who have their own needs, wants, and dreams, colorful, engaging NPCs who are fun to interact with, but don’t steal the spotlight from the players too much, and a satisfying story that doesn’t feel like it’s dragging, derailing, or forcing the players along can be quite a challenge. When you do manage to strike that balance, though, it is one of the most fun and fulfilling ways to tell a story with your friends. The key to finding that balance all comes down to the way you go about creating the characters and how you involve your players in the game. Read More…

Step Into the Echo Chamber: Social Media, the Internet, Identity, and Purpose

For a while now I’ve been meaning to write about the echo chamber that social media has become, but I was lacking a point. It seemed kind of silly to write about social media being an echo chamber and then throw that thought out into the even larger echo chamber of the internet. Recently, however, I have been thinking about the reasons behind why we do things, and how they shape our views of ourselves and the world, and I knew that the two concepts were related. So here is my two cents on the phenomenon of social media and how it affects us as people. Read More…