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The Challenge Rating Challenge!

What’s up everyone,

 

I wanted to take a few moments if I could and discuss a problem that – at one point or another – every GM has experienced. What happens when the group you run changes in Challenge Rating? Do you continue with the material knowing full well that the PCs will die, or do you alter it accordingly? How do you do that?

Being a DM requires flexibility. It’s mandatory. From players who up and quit in the middle of a campaign to one that is sick; you won’t have a consistent group every time. How can a GM be able to plan and plot for that kind of thing? Is there any real way to get past this hurdle without creating a TPK (total party kill) situation? Do you ‘softball’ the main villain fight because the one player who never shows finally arrives?

I have struggled with this issue off and on for years. I have created a few tricks that I use for these sorts of situations and I’d like to share them with you. They don’t really require too much planning and, with the right ideas, you can make sure you hit that CR right every time.

One tactic I use is this – I create the adventure for the CR of the whole party, but I allow a couple of pieces designed for effortless removal should this sort of situation arrive. For instance, my player group decided to attack a marauding pack of thieves that were preying on a trade route.

I designed the encounter for my whole group, but a last minute phone call came through letting me know that I was a player down. To offset this issue, I removed one of the casters and one of the warriors from the fight roster. This diminishing firepower lowered the overall CR and allowed a challenging but rewarding combat.

Here’s a tricky situation. You design a main boss fight with a single big bad guy. You have him adjusted for your party. Suddenly, in walks Jimmy. Jimmy’s been gone for 4 sessions and said he couldn’t play anymore so you ruled him out. Wanting to be a gracious GM, you let him sit in and belly up to the table. What can you do?

Just like the last tip, you can have a couple of ‘pocket aces’ if you will and have that main bad guy have a few henchmen of his own. Suddenly the CR is ramped up and once again the fight is hard, but ultimately winnable.

Now, what to do if the dice are not falling the player’s way? You don’t want to seem like you are purposefully killing your group. You don’t want to show that you are taking pity on the PCs – that often makes the group feel like they aren’t any good. This one is a little more difficult. What I do is I reduce the number of consumable magic items available to the bad guys. Fighters with two healing potions suddenly have only one. Perhaps a weapon the big bad guy has is dealing damage to him while he uses it. Or, for a quick and dirty solution, simply reduce the hit points of the big bad guy.

I hope these tips serve you well, fellow GMs. Remember, it’s not us against them. It’s everyone for fun!  Keep rolling friends!

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How GMing has Helped Parenting

Hey guys and thanks for stopping by Gimmearoll again.  I wanted to touch on the topic of parenting.  Specifically, how GMing has helped me in the realm of being a parent.  As a father of two, it can get a little tricky from time to time when it comes to dealing with the various issues that arise.  However, when you stop and think about it, parenting isn’t very different from GMing.  Here is a few tips that I have gleaned from my time behind the screen – tips that I now use in my parenting style to take some of the pressure off of being a dad.

Tip #1 – Prepare to lose

As a Game Master, it is our jobs to lose regularly and consistently without looking like we are throwing in the towel in favor of the PCs.  How often would we have people returning to our table if every third game was a TPK (total party kill)?  It’s important to show on the outside that we are genuinely trying to destroy the characters while behind the screen, bad guy hit points get trimmed, damage gets rounded up and spells slip off the list if the PCs are really floundering with a particular encounter.   The same applies for parenting.  When a child is experiencing a hard time at school, or homework simply isn’t clicking, or even if a simple chore becomes overwhelming for that day, we need to modify our approach.  This helps the child so that they feel like they are maintaining some semblance of control and success over their lives.  This helps build self-confidence and shows the kiddo that even if days are hard, it can still turn out ok.

Tip #2 – Pick your battles

I have quite often been behind the screen wondering if a player’s question is worth getting into an argument over – this many times comes in the form of rules interpretations.  I ask myself if the point of contention is really worth bogging the game down in the name of clarification.  Sometimes the answer is yes; but the majority of the time it simply isn’t worth the time taken out of the game to bicker over a small thing.  For instance, does it REALLY matter if the fighter is 3 pounds over his medium load into heavy as long as he isn’t taking advantage of the situation?  Probably not.  Needing clarification on every single issue tends to turn the game into a bureaucratic meeting instead of quality time with friends.  This tip translates very well into parenting.  So what if your child is wearing stripes with polka dots.  It doesn’t affect you at all and therefore should not be a point of contention between the two of you.  Take your time and choose the situations in which to stand your ground and let the rest go.  It’s not worth the headaches and frustration.

Tip #3: Have fun!

Game Masters are often seen as the ones who toil to create something wonderful for other people while they themselves wither on the vine.  This should never be the case.  As soon as you start resenting your players – turn in your screen and take a break my friend.  The entire point of gaming is for everyone to come together and have a good time – player and GM alike.  As a GM, I find a great deal of pleasure in weaving story lines together.  I enjoy incorporating my players’ backgrounds in order for them to truly feel connected to world in which they are playing in.  It makes me happy and I know plenty of you out there that feel the same way.  Parenting is no different.  When you have children, and especially when they are small, they can really seem needy and over dependent.  They are – they’re kids!  You should find joy in doing tasks with them that you both like doing.  I take my kids to the bookstore once a month and to the comic shop every other week.  These outings strengthen my bond with them and help my girls understand their father.  Never be afraid to share who you are with your kids.  They need a role model and who better than you?!  Things will likely get dicey from time to time as tempers flare and the kiddos gets to be a stressor.  When that happens, turn in your parent card for a little while and refocus.  This can take many shapes.  If you are married, hand them off to your spouse while you go do something.  Perhaps if the grandparents are nearby, let them hang out for a couple hours while you go relax.  If neither option is available to you, ask a friend to take the reins while you disappear for a time in a movie or book.  Knowing when to say when is extremely vital to the relationship you grow with your children.

That’s all I got for now folks.  Keep rollin’ gang and talk with you very very soon!

 

If you have a question that you would like answered give me a shout @ yoscreenjockey@gimmearoll.com.  I read every submission that comes across my desk, so please don’t hesitate.

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When to say When

Hello and thank you for stopping by the blog here at Gimme A Roll!  I was perusing the Pathfinder Facebook page when I ran across a great question.  Here it is:

Who determines when a campaign ends? I’m currently DMing an Adventure Path and was wondering how to tackle the ending to it. The campaign will be ending around level 17-18, when they finally conquer the goal they’ve been striving for since level 1. Do I ask the players if they want to continue, in which case the game becomes open ended, or do I conclude the story and try to move onto another story?

As the DM, I’d prefer to end it then and there but I’m sure my players would have trouble just retiring the player characters they’ve been using for the past year.”

 

This is an excellent question!  When do we, as Game Masters, decide that the game has run its course?  When running adventures that are pre-built, we are often left with the question of ‘What happens next?’  Ultimately it is up to you!  However, I feel it is important to list out many options to play around with to suit your players’ styles.

The first option I’d like to cover is if you find another adventure that takes characters of the levels of your players and segue them into the new adventure with a small narrative that winds down your current one and builds up to the new.  That is by far the easiest thing to do with the exception of ending the game with the current rounds of characters.

I would like to have you entertain another idea though.  This one is a little different, but can lead to a fresh and new style of game play.  As characters reach their highest level –  I think about what they will do after adventuring.  What happens to these tough monster killers when it comes time to retire?  Just like the end of the old movie Conan, we see Conan, now an old King, sitting upon his throne.  Perhaps the characters are asked to take stewardship of a city.  They may be appointed as ambassadors of a country and have to navigate the ever tenuous tides of politics?

These are just a few of the ideas you can run with to take those powerhouses and place them in an area that is out of their element.  I think that by doing this, you as a Game Master will be pleasantly surprised at how fun games like this can be.  The players will appreciate that you have not tossed aside their hard earned character experience.  They will enjoy that you have given them something to struggle with besides monsters.  I hope this was helpful to you and, as always…Keep Rolling!

 

If you have a question that you would like answered give me a shout @ yoscreenjockey@gimmearoll.com.  I read every submission that comes across my desk, so please don’t hesitate.