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How to Prepare Your Very First Tabletop RPG

One of the hardest places to start gaming is at the beginning. Our hobby is very intimidating from the outside, especially to people that really want to get in. There are so many systems, so many rules, and so much riding on that first adventure.

Today we are offering some advice for those of you that have never run a game before as a Game Master (or Dungeon Master or Beloved Master or Storyteller or Referee or whatever else you kids call it these days). We want to offer some practical advice, and a LOT of encouragement, to get you to try something new and include/make some great friends.

Please believe me, as someone who waited 10 years to finally cross the fence, the other side, that it is SO worth it. Tabletop RPGs are even more fun than they seem, and while not every minute of every campaign will be perfect the rewards far outweigh the fears. Hopefully the thoughts below can help you start gaming with your friends.

Why Write This Post?

I was recently looking at old YouTube blogs I had subscribed to, and in one of them the blogger said something that really hit home. She also thought that she and her friends would really enjoy getting into a tabletop rpg, but she had no idea where to begin. How could they get started?

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Adventure April: TimeStress: A Timetravel Fate Adventure

For all you Chrono Trigger and Doctor Who fans, here is a campaign starter for a time traveling adventure. We’ve talked about it, hinted at it, and touched on it long enough. Now let’s take a look at how to actually do it with an example you can pick up and use yourself!

The campaign is based on Fate Core, and there is a little bit of set up involved. We’ll walk you through all of that and offer some tips for character creation in your world building. The actual adventure brings everyone together and sets them off in the direction you choose for world building.

If you would rather just use this as a one shot to bring a lot of wacky people together from across time, just skip the next section and ignore the part about the “something more out there” at the end.

World Building a Timeline

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Adventure April: Avatar: The Last Airbender

Every week this month we are going to put out an adventure for you to enjoy. This weeks adventure is from Avatar: the last Airbender. Enjoy!

I am a HUGE fan of Nickelodeon’s Avatar series, and in the early stages of Fate (before Fate Core) I made my own version of a Fate hack for the series. We’ve mentioned this before, even shared some stunts from the game in our first Sample Stunts blog post. Now that it is April, and the Google Doc is up, we figured why not share an opening adventure.

Just a heads up: this is not a Fate Core game, so the skill names are very different than what you are used to. It does use Fate Points, fudge dice, aspects, and stress so those of you that play Fate Core should still be able to play it easily enough. Converting the system should not take too much work if you are interested.

For the sake of simplicity, this fan hack adventure is set before the events of The Last Airbender and before the fire nation invaded. It is divided into 3 scenes, each with their own skill challenges and tips for the GM.

Scene 1: Festival

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Lists of Inspiration

As an Improvisational Style Game Master, I have a difficult time doing prep work. I find it very rewarding, especially when running a game with heavy elements of mystery and intrigue, but it is not always easy to do. A lot of prep work gets wasted when players do not go the direction you expect them to go, and that hurts a lot when you put all that effort doing something you do not enjoy just to make the game you run better. But can you really blame the players for pursuing something that they find more interesting in your game?

That’s not a rhetorical question. Are we allowed to do that? I’d love to know!

Back to point, I find that over the years I tend to compromise my prep work by spending most of my time prepping for improvisation. I prepare little fun encounters that can fit when a player does something random, or I stat up a crazy monster if I ever need to have one kick down a door to pick up the pace of a game.

Today I want to talk about making one of my favorite Improvisational Preparation tools, one of the simplest and most popular tools in our genre for embracing random encounters: the list!

Making a List

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Making Fan Fate: Follow up

Back in March we did a blog post called World Building for a Fan Fate Game where we gave some general ideas on how to convert your favorite book/anime/movie/tv drama into a Fate Core RPG world. Basically it was all about making that first session of world building a positive experience that points you into having a great campaign in the world you love so much.

Today we are doing a follow up on that, because we never really got down into the details of each step. So guess what we are doing today? That’s right. DETAILS!!!

On a quick note, we are going to refer to whatever subject you are fan Fating from as “the show” even though movies and books and other sources are perfectly acceptable sources for fan-based games. It just makes things simpler for our writing sake.

Choose Your Group’s Destiny

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Fate Stunt Making for Players

I do not know of any other RPG that says “Make Your Own Powers” besides Fate (Editors note: One of the best ways to get information on the Internet is to say something doesn’t exist, or can’t be done. We look forward to hearing how that previous statement is wrong). Maybe I’m too sheltered, but it really seems like a lot of power to give to players not only when they are building characters but also throughout the campaign as they are leveling up. With great power comes great responsibility. And lots of fun!

For this post, we are going to look at making stunts from a player’s point of view. While all of these tips will be useful to GMs as well, they have a whole other set of things to consider when building stunts. Players are usually just concerned about one thing: their character. So with that in mind, here are some ideas to help you get started.

#1 Consult the Rules

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Game Design: Escape to Thorn Valley: pt.4: The Quest

This week we do our fourth, and final, part of Game Design for the adventure “Escape to Thorn Valley”. This is based off of a FATE Core hack for Secret of NIMH that you can find here: https://taoofchall.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/fate-core-secret-of-nimh/

The first week we talked about the Escape.

The second week we talked about the the Trek

Last week we talked about how to Negotiate

This week we talk about the last step in the adventure:

The Quest

The last scene, QUEST, is all about awesomeness. This is where the players get to play those mice and rats that feel like NIMH creatures. If they did very well with their conversation with the Great Owl, they will have learned about Toy Tinker, the vehicle with small tools and items that was not completely scavenged from the first wave of NIMH rats. Even without it, the forest is filled with things that can be reshaped for their purposes. Crafts is used to make these things, and should really be fun to use in this scene. Lore lets you know things like how bad mud, rain, snakes, and thorns can be. Drive will allow you to work contraptions that you build to get past the mud. Physique will keep you from getting stuck or pushing a vehicle that is stuck in the big mud at the climax of this adventure.

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Game Design: Escape to Thorn Valley: pt.3: Negotiate

This week we do our third part of Game Design for the adventure “Escape to Thorn Valley”. This is based off of a FATE Core hack for Secret of NIMH that you can find here: https://taoofchall.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/fate-core-secret-of-nimh/

The first week we talked about the Escape.

Last week we talked about the Trek

This week we talk about the next step in the adventure:

Negotiate

The third scene, NEGOTIATE, is all about social interaction. Fans of the NIMH series will recognize the Great Owl as both wise and scary. This should give them hope for moving forward despite being frustrated about how hard things have been so far. Whether they find the Great Owl, or it snatches up one of them, he is willing to speak once he realizes that they are NIMH creatures. Deceive can be used to convince the owl you are not tasty or hide anything you’ve done. Empathy will determine the truth of what the owl is saying and his intent to not eat you unless provoked. Rapport will be most useful in finding out about Thorn Valley and the rats that came before you. Will allows you to resist the owl’s passive mental attack.

The Great Owl Finds You

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Game Design: Escape to Thorn Valley: pt.2: The Trek

This week we do our second part of Game Design for the adventure “Escape to Thorn Valley”. This is based off of a FATE Core hack for Secret of NIMH that you can find here: https://taoofchall.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/fate-core-secret-of-nimh/

Last week we talked about the Escape.

This week we talk about the next step in the adventure.

The Trek

The second scene, TREK, is all about despair. The wild outside world is very difficult to live in when you are a small rodent, and many creatures would love to eat the player characters. Hit them with several challenges that are very difficult and not very rewarding, emphasizing how unhelpful their enhanced intelligence is out here. If any of the player characters have 2 or more consequences at any point during this scene, then you should definitely move on to the next scene .Athletics will allow you to dodge predators. Notice will keep you from being caught off guard. Survival will be key in finding food to make it through the day. Stealth will keep everyone hidden from hungry eyes.

Prowling Cat

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Game Design: Escape to Thorn Valley: pt.1

I saw this website a while back that had made a FATE Core hack for Secret of NIMH. In his game, you play special mice/rats that have been altered by NIMH. The website is at https://taoofchall.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/fate-core-secret-of-nimh/ if you want to check it out. It is an old post, a couple of years old in fact, but as soon as I found it I found myself wanting to run a campaign in that setting. But since my groups are not eager to abandon the games they are already playing, I settled for writing this intro adventure.

This adventure, intended to be a one shot or an introduction into the campaign, is designed for 4 players running a mix of mice and rat characters. In this adventure, the characters will have to escape their cages, survive their trek through the woods, negotiate with the Great Owl, and find their way to Thorn Valley.

Note that Fight, Shoot, and Provoke are never emphasized as options. This is on purpose, as this adventure does not feature any combat. Mice and rats are small and surrounded by predators. Attacking is always a bad idea in this adventure. Later, when they have crafted weapons and have a better understanding of what they are facing, combat will probably be ok. But that’s assuming that you wish for this adventure to continue into a campaign. As a one shot, definitely discourage players from building characters with these skills at the top of their track.

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