August 13: What makes a successful campaign?
Player buy-in. You can develop the perfect campaign world, populate it with cunning monsters and interesting NPCs, tailor plots both flexible and complex…and none of that matters if the players aren’t interested in what you’re offering. The best way to get that buy-in, I’ve found, is to talk to your players before you begin a new campaign. Find out what they like, give them idea of what you’re offering, and see where you can meet in the middle. Remember, you may be the GM but you’re only one chair at the table. If the players aren’t having fun, then why are you GMing?
August 14: Your dream team of people you used to game with?
I have a whole roster of folks I miss gaming with, too many to comfortably seat at a table for a game. I miss gaming with Jake, Amy, Ross, Christie, Brent Secondus, and a whole slough of others from the Living Greyhawk days. I’ve GMed great tables of random players at various cons around Canada and the US that I’d love to game with again. And I miss running games with Corey, Anita, Joe, Brent Secondus (again), Jason, and Laura; they were a great group to wile away a Saturday morning with.
But my current groups are pretty swell, so I’m not really pining for past players too much. I think that’s part of what makes tabletop role-playing so special; you never really know how long a particular group of players are going to be together. You play the best game you can with the time you have, and when it’s over the table stories enter your personal RPG mythology. So I just keep playing, and keep adding to that pantheon.
August 15: Your best source of inspiration for RPGs?
Of things inspiring my gaming right now, I’d have to say the Critical Role live-stream is right up there. I never come away from an episode less than invigorated about my hobby, and filled with ideas of things I want to try in my games. I enjoy the show most because it shows off the best of what role-playing sessions can be like. We can’t all be talented voice-actors, of course. But as players and GMs we can aspire to be as generous and open with our role-playing as the crew of Vox Machina are. Whatever else they are, the DM and players on Critical Role are a group of friends who come together every week to share a game they love. It shows in everything they do, from the actual playing to how they interact with the fans of the show. I find them inspiring, and if I can bring a fraction of what they have to any table I’m at, I count myself ahead of the game.
August 16: Historical person you’d like in your group? What game?
Depending on your definition of historical, my first response is Gary Gygax. I’ve never met the man, but I’ve read his work and entered the hobby with the game he helped create. I have no illusions that he’s some larger than life figure, with no flaws except for creating the THAC0 system; I know he was just a man. But that’s why I’d want to game with him, I want to meet the man behind the myth, warts and all. I think that would be a great time, whether we got along or not. And we’d play D&D, naturally. Probably Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, but maybe I’d see what he thought of 5e.
August 17: What fictional character would best fit in your group?
I have several groups, so this is tough. For my long-running pathfinder group, the Thursday (now Monday) Knights, I think we need someone hack-and-slash so I’m going to say Canadian privateer Enos Collins; arguably one of the most successful privateers in Canadian history, when he died he was the richest man in Canada. For my Council of Thieves group, I’m going to go with Julie d’Aubigny, a famous 17th century swordswoman and opera singer. Swashing buckles and singing arias, I think she’d fit right in. For my first D&D group, I’m going to say we need some leadership with a touch of scoundrel, so let’s add English pirate Mary Read to the mix. that will stir the pot nicely.
I’ll have to think further for my other groups. I’ll update as they come to me.
August 18: What innovation could RPG groups benefit most from?
Even if your group is able to meet face-to-face, I think virtual tabletops like Roll20 are a great benefit to any gaming group. If your groups are like mine, many of your players are using laptops and pads during the game anyway. If everyone is logged in to a virtual tabletop, you have the ability to tailor the play experience for each player. Instead of passing a note which draws attention from the other players, for instance, you can just IM a player inside the tabletop and pass information that way. That way, things that player notices will actually surprise the other players when they make themselves known. The tabletop can also be used to display pictures and graphics to your players all at once, and to keep a bank of those images for reference later. And if they have the funcionality, the virtual tabletop can store character information for use by the GM out of game, or when the player forgets their character sheet. GMs can also implement changes to a character in the program, making book-keeping easier for the players. All this, besides the benefit of allowing folks who might not be able to get a group together in person, the chance to take part in the hobby.
Okay, that’s it. I’ll be back tomorrow and we’ll finish out the month with daily posts. If you have anything to add, drop it in the comments below.