Friday, January 8, 2010

Finding a Cheap Dice Tray

I spend a good deal of time in resell shops. One of my favorites is Goodwill. At first I was against going to used good stores as I thought the items were poorly maintained and people were just looking for a way to get rid of their junk. There is a lot of things you will consider junk there, but if you are not looking for anything in particular, you can find a gem of a deal.

I shop these stores and think “how can I use this in a game?” I can often find terrain that will spice up an encounter or something that may help me in a mundane way, like folders or clip boards for paper management. Sometimes I find steals and just wonder if the person putting the item out has no idea what it is. I found a color PDA for $3.00. It was an older model, but I was able to charge it up and it worked perfectly. I found a free die roller for the PDA on-line and was able to use the PDA at the game (I have since abandoned the PDA as I roll horribly with electronic die rollers).

The story of my most recent find starts on December 26th, our first game after Christmas. A couple of us gamers pitched in to buy the octagonal dice tray pictured here. We purchased the tray so our game master would not have to use the box lid from one of his board games to roll dice. We all got a laugh out of the “10′ wood” that was written on the box and the tray turned out to be a hit at the game as everyone tested its functionality.

A few days later, I found myself in Goodwill again and stumbled across a dice tray for sale. I did not think the dice tray was as nice as the one we purchased, but I really liked the idea of having my own tray and this one had an intriguing set of numbers across the top. I racked my brain to determine what the what the numbers were used for, then I thought “Well, how can I use this in a game”? The numbers counted from one to nine and I though; Initiative Round Tracker, Wound Level Tracker, Sustained Spell Counter, Bullet Counter, …

I couldn’t beat the price, so I purchased and brought the tray home. I was writing this article when the origin of the tray hit me… it belongs to a game called “Close the Box”. The game that is played with two people trying to eliminate numbers from one to nine. I believe this tray is half of a two tray set. I actually own a version of this game called Boc-tin, but the counters are completely different, they range from one to twelve, and uses a single area to roll dice. The other tray most likely suffered some mishap and a single tray is not very useful. So now I have found a decent dice tray with a nice counter function for whatever I may need it for. Total price for this item: 99 cents plus tax.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How Wounded are You?

Combat is one of the most time consuming elements of any role-playing game. I remember long drawn out actions scenes that enhanced the story we were creating. As I have progressed in my gaming years, the focus has moved away from details for efficiency, sacrificing fluff for crunch if you will. While this may work for many gamers out there, I feel it lessens the experience. No longer are my combats memorable scenes of questionable tactics and lucky saves; more often combat is reduced to target numbers and calculated dice rolls.

So how do we capture the essence of combat, making it more like a scene from an action movie than scrolling DPS* numbers from the characters stoic attack stance. One way is to be more descriptive in combat. Don’t settle for the arbitrary, “He dies and falls down” as soon as his damage threshold is exceeded. Allow your final bad guy to remain standing two or even three rounds after he has died and describe each blow the characters make until the realize that the nemesis is no longer fighting back. Allow him to slump down in such away that the party is unsure who made the killing blow.

Award players who add more to combat than just rolled numbers. I recall a friend saying, “I like my players to feel like their characters are in a John Woo film.” If a player wants to attempt a wild undocumented maneuver in a game, award him experience and then his penalties for the action.

Another thing I like, is wound location. While this may add more overhead to the game, I find a well streamlined system adds more to story telling than takes away from combat. I prefer the die method, and using s specialized die reduces the need to reference charts. Wound location should not change the dynamics of the game, and just because you roll a head shot does not mean you can ignore armor. Just remember that combat is somewhat abstract and a wound location just helps a player visualize his character’s current state.

Let us know how you handle wounds in your games.

*DPS – Damage per Second

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year’s Resolutions for the Role Playing Gamer

I recently cam across an article discussing New Year’s Resolutions for the Role Playing Gamer, I decided that I would try my hand and see if I could hold true to my gamers word.

  • Try a new game system – I did find Swashbuckler’s of the 7 skies interesting. I haven’t seen anything on the game, yet I have a desire to play a Lightening Pirate. If I can convince the group to play, I just may be able to pull off…. arrhhggg.
  • Read Graham Walmsley’s awesome book Play Unsafe - I will have to give this a gander.
  • Play a couple of one-shot RPGs - I don’t care for short one-shot games, things have a tendency to go off the deep end. I’m willing to give it a try… I just need to find the right one.
  • Go play at a convention – Will have to try this out. Now what convention to go to…
  • Read a book on psychology, science, or history – picking up any book and reading it would be a good goal for me. I have so many books I will never be able to read (I’m a slow reader) that I’ll shoot for reading something not job related.
  • Pull out a RPG you haven’t played in a while and play it – I would have to agree with the Dallas Wizard and say this would be either Star Frontiers or Star Drive. These two setting never got the chance they deserved. Since I own all the books for each game, it wouldn’t be to hard to get a game going.
  • Buy something from a local game store – This will be something of a stretch for me, money is tight these days and I try to get the most for my money. There’s also few things I buy retail anymore, preferring to get my items used to save on cost. I would have to expound on this and say “Buy something from a local game store at least once per quarter.”
  • GM a game & play in a game – I don’t really have too much issue with, although I am in the stage to prefer being a player, I end up in the game master’s seat a lot.
I should probably come up with some of my own, but this is enough for now. If you thing up any good ones drop me a note.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year of Gaming

Happy New Year!

Last night marked a new year of gaming, and what an auspicious way to start out. We started the new year under a blue moon. The moon was not actually blue; it is just a way to reference the second full moon of a given month. Needless to say, this hasn’t happened for a spell. While I’m not one to read omens or portents, I do believe this a good sign.

Using a blue moon would add an interesting mood for any gaming situation. I rarely see the moon utilized unless the game revolves around lycanthropes. With the reverence that the moon holds in many beliefs, it can be used effectively as motivation for cults and other religious zealots to work themselves into frenzy on a holy night such as this. The nexus of energies may cause the wellsprings of magic to overflow resulting in diabolical wizards making their grasp for power against the Goddess of magic herself. The reasons for using such a night are countless.

This morning there was a light fog out and while you could not see more than 20 feet with any distinction, the moon was able to cut through and illuminate the area nicely. Describing a horde undead shambling into the character’s encampment could unnerve the players. Archers suddenly become less effective and the party wizard cannot accurately utilize powerful spells for fear of engulfing their comrades.

Hopefully this will spur your new year into some exciting adventures. May the road rise to meet you,
may the wind be always at your back and may the sun shine warm upon your face.