RPGaDay 2019, Day 8 & 9: Obscure and Critical

Yesterday was a bad brain day so no post, but my migraine/depression is your gain with a twofer today. Enjoy!

Day Eight – Obscure

As I was building my current D&D campaign world, I had to make decisions as I went as to what things would be common knowledge and what would be obscure or specialized knowledge. I have always done this in my campaigns, even when using published campaign settings, because I think it is important that there be certain lore or knowledge that the characters have to find for themselves. More than anything, I want the players to feel like their characters are discovering hidden secrets of my campaign, things that only they might be privy to.

It was especially important to delineate common and hidden or obscure knowledge, because my world had just gone through five hundred years of war followed by a cataclysm leading to almost five hundred years of devastation and isolation. I had to decide who knew what prior to the war, then figure out how the war affected that knowledge base. Once I had that I then had to decide how the cataclysm affected everything, and what happened to existing stores of lore when cities isolated themselves. But more, I also had to figure out who, if anyone, still knew the true history of the war, what actually happened to cause the cataclysm, and what happened to the Summer and Winter fey courts in all this.

But that’s good, it gives me a wonderful depth of history and secrets for my players to discover with their characters. In the one campaign, my players are already getting hints that the war may not have gone exactly as currently believed. Which then begs the question, why do folks believe it went a particular way, and who benefits from that belief? And does that affect anything now? Only time will tell.

That last is important, and for me it’s the hardest part of building all these secrets into my campaign: not spoiling everything to my players because I want them to see all the cool things I made. You’ll struggle with it, but I urge you to hold on and keep all those secrets until the players earn them. The payoff is so much more delightful and rewarding when they have worked for it, and can hold that precious bit of obscure lore in their hands. Not only for the work they’ve put in, but also because now they hold a secret, a secret they can now choose to share or keep. And that’s a wonderful gift to give your players, and your campaign.

Day Nine – Critical

I have done a fair amount of theory-crafting lately, but now I’m going to talk practical gaming matters. I have written before about pulling together my game room at home, and the process of making that a comfortable and inviting space. So let’s talk about what I think is the most critical aspect of that space. You might think I’m going to say the table, but in fact I think the most important thing for maximum comfort in the game room are the chairs.

A lot of focus goes to the table, and that’s good. It is important. It’s going to be the focal point of your gaming, plus hold all your stuff during a game, so by all means you need a decent one. But most game sessions fall into at least the 3-4 hour range, possibly longer (lucky devils!). If you’re going to be at the table that long you need good, sturdy, comfortable chairs. Otherwise, about an hour in your players are going to be more focused on their sore butts than they are the game, and that just won’t do.

I had to learn this the hard way. When I was first setting up the room I didn’t have a lot of cash, so I went with an inexpensive table and a half-dozen folding chairs. Those are sort of okay if you’re playing board games for shorter periods. But for longer games, or RPG sessions, they just don’t work. They’re uncomfortable, they aren’t very sturdy (and when you have big gamers coming to play, sturdy is important), and they’re uncomfortable. Yes I said that twice, because comfort is key!

So where am I looking for better chairs? Two places I’m checking out, and I highly recommend you do the same. The first is any charity thrift shop you have in your area. They often have furniture available, and this is a great way to grab four to six good dining room chairs cheaply. If you’re lucky the table that comes with them will also suit your needs, and then it’s wins all over! The second place I recommend checking out are architectural reclaim or reuse shops. These would be places that reclaim furniture from home and restaurant renovations, and sell them on. Usually a bit more expensive than a thrift shop. But the ideal chair, for me, is one of those very solid wooden chairs you find in steak houses and the like. They are definitely sturdy, and will sometimes also be padded, which should be considered a bonus but not essential at this point. There are ways to upholster the chairs later, so initially I just need six solid chairs I can trust to last for a long time.

I’m planning a shopping trip in the fall, so expect me to post pictures of what I am looking at and what I eventually choose. But for now, that is my one piece of critical advice for setting up your game room: don’t skimp on the chairs! 

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