Role-playing

How do you house rule death?

The one aspect of RPGs that I’ve seen most house-ruled are death rules. For example, in the last few editions of Dungeons & Dragons, a character that drops to 0 HP or less makes death saving throws unless stabilized or healed, and if the character fails three rolls, they die. A lot of groups nerf … Continue reading »

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My Go-To RPG for Any Genre

You come across a cool movie, TV show, or book, and you think, Man, I want to run a tabletop game in that world. But there’s no RPG designed specifically for it. What system do you use? Unless another system fits particularly well, I always default to Risus. Why? The entire Risus system can be described in … Continue reading »

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How to Run a Heist in D&D

Let’s say your players need to retrieve a heavily guarded item in a fantasy RPG scenario. How should you go about running that? First thing: establish the location. You’ll need a detailed map of the place where the item is kept; find a map online or create it yourself. Place the item deep within that location. … Continue reading »

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Stone Age 5E

I’ve adapted and simplified D&D 5E’s rules for play in a gritty, no-magic, no-technology, Stone Age setting. There are no races, classes, skills, feats, or spells, so the game is much simpler. You can still drop in a monster from standard 5E and the same mechanics will work. Read it here or download a PDF. … Continue reading »

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Your villain should be like your PCs except in one way

Your villain should be industrious and productive, just like the heroes. Your villain should be committed to her or his cause, just like the heroes. Your villain should be convinced that she or he is right, and have reasonable justifications for her or his behavior. Your villain should inspire others to follow the same cause, just … Continue reading »

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How to Prepare a One-Shot RPG Session

Let’s say you’re going to run a game at a convention, or you want to introduce a new system to your regular players who may not continue beyond one session. That’s what I’m calling a one-shot for this article: a self-contained tabletop RPG session, where you don’t expect to return to the characters or world. Since … Continue reading »

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How to Tell a Big Story

Lots of GMs want their campaigns to tell an epic, inter-connected story with plot threads woven over dozens of sessions. But as soon as they plan one, their players take a left turn two sessions in and never actually interact with 90% of the material the GM planned. Here’s the secret: don’t write out what … Continue reading »

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First Time DM Essentials

You want to run Dungeons & Dragons for the first time. Awesome! You’ll have a great time. Here’s some advice for the absolute minimum you need to do for your first session to make it run as smoothly as possible. Ahead of Time Find a first level adventure. While this will take some work, it’s a … Continue reading »

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Minimum Viable World: How much of your world to build

How much of your world do you need to prepare ahead of time to make the world appear fresh to your players? Let’s avoid the obvious extremes of zero preparation on the one hand, and a binder full of notes on the other. Some people run successfully with one extreme or the other; this post is … Continue reading »

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Which lasts longer: the PCs or the world?

Do you create campaigns to suit the player-characters? When the PCs reach a stopping point, do you move on from that world and create a new campaign? Or do you create worlds that your PCs happen to adventure in? Obviously, our games are never as cut-and-dried as this, but think about your general approach. In practice, … Continue reading »

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