GM Struggles

Struggles, wins and losses of a gamer

Getting ready! Two Purchases

So, I have been a while without posting, have been mostly reading things and preparing myself to run the, since my game is composed of Pirates, I need to get source material and ideas into my brain, to make the game really be about that and also, to be able to give them fitting ideas on the fly.

Just now I placed an order on for two general books, I have mostly gone digital but somethings are hard to leave behind, so when it comes down to the system book, maps and resources like names I prefer print over digital. The books I purchased are:

1. Story Games Name Project, a book that collects names to be used for your game, the idea and work in making the compilation was by Jason Morningstar. I really need to make sure I got fitting names at a game table and even more when my players have the guts to name an elf warlock Miguel… when I asked the player to choose a more fitting one he changed it… to Miguelel.

2. Dyson’s Delves Limited Edition is a book with maps and ready to use dungeons by Dyson, a great artist that I have been following through RPG Bloggers and RPG  Blog Alliance Network. His maps and dungeons are cool and evocative and I want to show him my appreciation and support too, so everyone wins. If you want to check out his maps and other stuff check out his blog at and see how much stuff is there for free, if you got some spare money and wanna help him though, do as I did.

Meanwhile I have been sharing some stuff about my current game (powered by Dungeon World) at the Story Games Forums, selflessly collecting their wisdom, advice and tips to make the game better in any way I can.


New Year’s RPG Resolutions

The year is coming to an end, the moment of a new life comes again, where we go through what happened in the past (and not just last year) and what is coming. Most people usually pose themselves some kind of new year’s resolution, it can be anything.

A long time ago on I cam across this Go Play movement. It was in a lot of places, silently, like an idea, a philosophy, something you could feel but not grasp. I later learned it originated on some other place called Story Games forums, which I wasn’t a part of until very very recently, took me long enough to understand that I want more story games because to me RPGs are actually about story.

Anyway, my new year’s resolution is simple, I want to play more of what I talk about, read about, learn about on the world wide web, I want to strengthen my group’s and my own experience, I want to evolve and empower my games with that simple thing: the actual play.

It is pretty simple in theory, like all new year’s resolutions, but actually trying to bring more theorycrafting into actual play is another demon entirely, even more so when I have a traditional minded group, with no exposure to anything more modern than Castle Falkenstein, OWoD and D&D editions (even the latest is quite classic isn’t it). Trying to bring all this new logic is a burden and an honor, I just hope they are open enough to understand that just because you liked it when you were 15 doesn’t mean it works now that you are 30.

As my blogging new year’s resolutions I have the wish to post at least twice a week, more if things come into my mind. I am always reading blogs on RPGs and I often have thoughts to share. But my plans are to actually make a weekly schedule for a few things I know I need to improve, like NPC design, also I might share what I don’t have such a hard time, like designing locations. Let’s see if I can keep that going.

How about you? What is your new year’s RPG resolution?

A Merry Christmas to You and Everyone Else

Regardless of religion or belief, I want to wish a happy time, enjoy your families and give your time to those you love, a day like today is meant to make us think and focus on our family and friends.

I am thankful for the family I have, the wife I love, the friends I respect and for having a chance of being part of their lives.

And to the few and much cherished readers of this blog, thanks for stopping by, I hope I can help you by posting about my own struggles, yesterday I played my first game of Dungeon World, and for the first time in many years we went into late night and got home  to sleeping children, wife and husbands, we came home happy.

I will share that later, what worked and what i struggled with, nothing ever goes as planned, but then, I am not planning anything any more, I am getting ready, having things prepared to take the game and my imagination wherever the players go.

May the winds of fun take us to the edge of the world, and beyond.

Dungeon World: I Didn’t Get it at First Too

Dungeon World is a little far from my usual games and from many systems I have heard. While reading it was kinda obvious to me that there was a different logic to the rules, but I didn’t get it at first. I mean, I understood it, I just didn’t get it.

The system’s logic is not something you transition into by just reading if you have the same kind of background that I have regarding RPGs. The best advice I can give you to help you get it is, whenever you feel the game doesn’t cover something as you read the book, put it aside and ask yourself: “How would that happen in a story?” this simple question will throw images in your head, and maybe you will find that thing that makes the system click, and all of a sudden you will just get it.

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Trying a New Game: Transition Plans

On my last post in the series of Trying a New Game (Selling the System), Undreren talked about Dungeon World being hard to pitch. I think a lot of the pain in pitching the system itself (since the game frame is the same as D&D’s) has one basic opposition: habit.

In Dungeon World, unlike many systems out there, the actions taken are defined by how the player describes them, by their actions and intent, this is not mechanical. Meanwhile my players and many others out there are used to framing their thoughts and actions in a game through the system mechanics.

Completely different filters are in effect, by wanting to play and run DW I also want them to think on the character’s toes, to make them act how they want them to, and not make a choice in the character sheet or on the basic moves sheet, but after so many years of playing D&D, Storyteller and GURPS, there is little chance that will happen spontaneously.

How I plan to make it work then?

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Expectations: Being on the Same Page

I have been debating to a friend about Dungeon World, the system’s simplicity and he compares some things to Legends of Anglerre (which is powered by FATE), a point of central debate we had was how he could see frustration arise from how something is handled, like an arm being ripped off. In Dungeon World there is no hard rule for doing it, and he saw the messy tag alongside the 16 HP dragon example as something that can arise way too often, in LoA such a consequence is first and foremost chosen by the player, and only to avoid being taken out, as such he sees no chance for frustration.

My point was pretty simple though: it can be frustrating in both cases, the greatest difference is that in DW the GM has to make an effort to be on the same page as the players, there is no other way it can work at all, otherwise he will be unfair and deviate from what the group want  very very fast, in LoA he can present me that this kind of thing is part of the game upfront, and I can just say I am not interested right there.

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Trying a New Game: Selling the System

This is the followup to the previous post, which you can read here: Trying a New Game: A Matter of Trust.

I talked about how trust developed through quality games plays a role in what a GM can present a group, how I don’t have that trust from half of the group, and I ended it saying that I want to GM them a game of Dungeon World.

In order to have them be truly willing to try something, and not just willing to prove to me that a new system is not a good choice, I have to sell them the system and the game idea, and sell them well.

System Update

System Update (Photo credit: bovinity)

The two players that I have to yet get the trust from are reluctant to even try a new system, and I can’t say they have no reason to. Gaming time is harder to get by as we grew older, and learning a new system takes time and effort. In fact when I talked about this to one of them he stated he is not really in favor of trying new systems exactly for that reason, time and effort spent for little gain, he doesn’t really believe in an evolution in game design, he believes in knowing a system. Both are the same in that regard, they are happy with the systems we played together, which are GURPS, Storyteller and D&D from 2nd edition to date.

The flaw in their reasoning, in my opinion, is the fact that none of those actually work well with the group we currently have, in fact in the last 4 years we had less than two good games and a lot of short term tries that didn’t quite cut it, and of the two, one required one entire evening of talking about the problems we were facing with the fun in the game and how we could go around it.

I am trying to find a system that works well for us. Enter Dungeon World.

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Trying a New Game: A Matter of Trust

A smiley with glasses.

A smiley with glasses. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, last time I talked about my Seed for the Dungeon World game I am planning. What I haven’t talked about is how it ties into what I see as needs of my group, my own needs, and everyone’s expectations on the table, this was supposed to be  a single post, but since there is a lot of different topics to cover I have split it into parts.

Anyone who GMed a game they can be proud of, or played in one they had a blast can see where I am going here. When you enjoy that kind of game and have that kind of experience, you trust your GM to provide you with another game like that without even realizing it. We associate the good game with the person “in charge” of it, and are willing to accept more deviation from our preferred style/tone/system when playing.

It is not a problem, much to the contrary, it is a great thing, it gives the GM more room to actually work on something he has more interest while still being able to provide you with a game you want to play. The only problem is when you want to GM and you lack that kind of trust.

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Dungeon World: seed for the game

I am preparing myself to GM a Dungeon World game, two advices given in the book (which is filled with good advice) are: play to find out what happens and draw maps, leave blanks. I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to prep, as I said earlier, so in order to let myself go while still leaving most of the work for the game itself I decided to get started on a premise for the setting.

Dungeon World, like D&D, thrives on having ancient ruins from long forgotten civilizations right beside newer ruins and living, breathing towns, villages and cities. This can be a little odd when confronted though, how come those civilizations come and go, what happened to them? This is my premise here. The world needs those to have interesting things to be done, and dungeons everywhere is a good thing for this, as a result, the world will be one made on apocalypse.

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Save vs Death or Safe from Death

Minifig Characters #6: Death

Minifig Characters #6: Death (Photo credit: minifig)

“It’s completely OK to run games where you flat out tell people “Your characters in this game will not die unless you do something immensely stupid or you say out loud that you’re willing to take the risk”.

Saves a lot of hassle.”

From: user KemperBoyd

This is an interesting take to things. I always thought there is no real reason for conflict if there is no risk of death, but truth is, conflict has meaning if failure means something. Death is just the end of a good character, of a personal story, it might be the appropriate failure, sure, but it is hardly the one and only meaningful choice or good story one can tell.

The way I see it, it is always hard to keep a game fun and interesting if we focus on a single option, this is the stuff railroading is bad for, if a single plot, a single way of bypassing, a single ending is all you got, then your game lacks possibility right? Same goes for death. The very same thread has some other very good advice that elaborates on this general idea:

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