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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:


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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Roundtable of Doom 7: Scaling Adventures

July Roundtable:

This month’s topic comes to us courtesy of +John Marvin:

“How do you scale encounters for a smaller or larger group than you had planned on. Or than the published adventure planned on? What works, and what does not? Do different systems affect how you scale? And what about fish? They have scales.”

So once again we have a roundtable topic to discuss. The questions are all centered on the same theme, but we are going to go ahead and address each one separately to flesh out the discussion.

How Do You Scale Encounters for Different Sized Groups?

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Making FATE Games Challenging

My Tian Xia group just finished their campaign, and it was quite the epic ending if I do say so myself. I had expected them to prevent the world-devouring beast from hatching out of its egg and thus save the world. Instead… “The moon is a giant egg?!? We need to bust it open and see what’s inside!”

And they did, too.

Moving forward towards the next game, I threw 3 elevator pitches as I often do about what the next game would be about. They opted for a post-apocalyptic dystopia with themes of survival and creating the future. And they want to use the Dresden Files RPG.

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Game Masters’ Roundtable of Doom #6

So this week we have been invited to participate in a Roundtable of Doom topic with other bloggers and give our 2 credits’ worth on the big question of how tough challenges should be. Other participants will be linked at the bottom of the article. This weeks question:

Many of us probably remember the AD&D days when the DM could roll a black dragon on the random encounter table and end a low-level party’s career. The 3rd and 4th editions of the game led some newer players to believe that every encounter should be defeatable and appropriate to their level and capabilities. However, 5th edition has moved away from this structure.

We see this mirrored in other games as well. At one end of the spectrum is the style and belief that the PCs should be able to overcome any challenge that comes their way, that challenges should be “appropriate”. On the other end of the spectrum is the style and belief that the world should be realistic, that every fight shouldn’t be able to be won, and that one of the requisite skills of the game is knowing when to fight and when to run.

Where do you, as a GM, fall on this spectrum, and why? Should the PCs always be able to win?

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Creative Challenges 3

I am not sure if anyone besides me ever does these, but they have been a lot of fun for me to write and to try out. The theme for these challenges: skirting failure. We are looking at ways that games often fail and daring ourselves to get close without actually falling over the edge.

Just like last time, these challenges are targeted at FATE gamers. You should be able to adapt them to other games, but it will take a little effort. Granted, these may be risky enough that you don’t even want to.

Challenge 1: Kill a Player Character

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Learning from Surprises

I’m going to take a short break from the Swords of the Skull Takers series to talk about surprises in games and how we learn from them. Surprise!

I used to think there were only 2 types of surprises in gaming. One: when the GM threw in a shocking twist of events on purpose to give the players a surprise (the bouncy bar maid is really an assassin sent to kill you). Two: when the players do something so random and seemingly stupid but the dice rolls make it actually work (I drink a fire resistance potion. Now set me on fire and catapult me to the enemy boat). In my younger, naïve, linear thinking days I labeled these 2 types of surprises good and bad, respectively.

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Skull Takers Adventure Part 2

Day 1

My name is Anne Darcy. I have found John Brighten’s journal. I hope John does not mind if I continue his story where he left off. I have not been injured or become sick, but I think about my death all the time. If I die, will I matter? Will anyone know me?

I know John because he kept a journal, and so I will keep his journal as well. If the dark ones get me, like the must have gotten John, and my altered body is found, please know who I am and miss me. I will take John’s hatchet and pointy pole as well, though I fear I will never be able to use them effectively.

I am definitely not staying in a house tonight. I am currently sleeping in an upside down bus in the ditch. It does not look like anyone could be in there when you see it from the outside. I like that about the bus. There are also no dead bodies in the bus, altered or not. That helps too.

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Predicting Unpredictable Players

Today’s article is geared more towards GMs, but I hope dedicated players will be able to pull some things about it. After all, this is about you from the GM’s perspective.

Players are unpredictable.

If your world is at all rocked by that statement, then bless your heart. The rest of us probably learned this the first time we ran a game. Maybe at first we thought it was our fault; that he hadn’t prepared enough for the adventure. Eventually, if a GM sticks with it, then she will come to the inevitable conclusion that no matter how much she prepares, she will never be able to predict her players’ actions.

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