When the thief of the party steps up to do their thing, the rest of the party sits back and waits for it to be over. This has a tendency to disrupt the flow of play and the energy in the session.
However, with a puzzle box or furniture with hidden compartments (see the videos below), the challenge can incorporate more of the party. Wizards, Clerics, and other loremasters can contribute their knowledge about the glyphs, runes, or mechanics to aid the thief in opening it. While the burly fighter holds the door (sorry, too soon), or operates the stiff mechanisms.
This springs from Matthew Colville‘s talk about Skill challenges and how to use them in D&D. Other game systems have been using skill challenges for a while, Matt’s expression of the idea has a lot of merits and you should check out the video.
What really makes these sort of things play out very well is to be very clear about the nature of the challenge, to make the PCs time poor, and to set up the consequences for both success and failure. Pathfinder is riddled with Save or Die options in the high levels and this is something best avoided. The FATE game system clear explains that the idea of failure equals death (ie Rocks fall, everyone dies) is narratively boring.
So what happens next is the important thing! Injuries, delays, distractions, curses, capture, etc. The movie Rising Sun has a scene when some bad guys delay the heroes while others dispose of a suspect, showing that the bad stuff doesn’t have to happen to the good guys.
Getting back to the point, one of the goals of the Game Master is to keep everyone engaged with the story in meaningful ways.
The Alexandrian has published an interesting article on the Hex crawl. It appears much like an endless dungeon, but in the open air. The 13 posts detail his version of how to put together this kind of open world adventure and finishes with a useful set of cheat-sheets. Also referenced is Ars Ludi’s Grand Experiments: West Marches, which prompting the idea for the Alexandrian.
On the one hand it looks like lazy GMing or GM-lite in the creation of a playable world, which is not a bad thing with the complex and busy lives most people live. However, I suspect that there would be interesting challenges in the preparation you could do. It would help develop the GM skills around improvisation and adaption, along with the creation of little diorama-like scenes for the players to experience. On the player-side, it looks quite easy as their is no preparation and all play, but the risks and challenges are such to make the session very intense.
On the other hand as a GM to does limit your ability to develop long term plans for NPC Villains and such. It would also make harder to develop the boarder story elements in the game, as everything becomes player driven, and depending on the whims your players could go anyway from hack’n’slash survival, monster of the week, to delving into alien cultures.
The same idea could be applied to an endless city filled with blocks of punks or citizens who have survived in the ancient arcology or similar open-worlds. For current examples look at Minecraft, No mans sky, Dwarf Fortress, or even one of the hundreds of the Rouge-like games. All of which fulfill the idea of an endless game world.
Since Episode VII is almost upon us, I thought it time to share one of my favorite webcomic, Darths and Droids. The story follows a group of gamers through the years as they experience role playing in the Star Wars universe (with the assumption that the movies do no exist in that universe).
The writers, The Comic Irregulars, make use of screen captures of all the movies cut into a comic style page. The comic features a well written story with in jokes and plays on Star Wars. The nice addition to the comic is that every page has some interesting facts and ideas relating to Star War, Sci Fi Gaming, Game Mastery, World Building, etc. I’d suggest for any GM to read the comic for the idea at the bottom.
Oh and the description of Jar Jar by the player Sally (See Page 20);
Obi-Wan: What does our new friend look like?
Obi-Wan: That's you, sis.
Jar Jar: Mesa got biiiig long floppy bunny ears...
Jar Jar: ... and a tongue like an anteater!
Jar Jar: And mesa face is kind of like a pony and mesa coloured peachy pinky white!
Qui-Gon: You should have eyes on stalks so that you can see behind you.
Qui-Gon: That'd be so cool.
Jar Jar: Yeah! Mesa has that too!
Qui-Gon: You look awesome!
GM: I've run Call of Cthulhu with less ghastly sounding monsters.
Qui-Gon: I like the voice too.
Which is such an apt description and pure comedy gold for the character.
14Every life has a story, it is a story, and creates many stories around it.
Most gamers start with Dungeons & Dragons as their form of live interactive fiction. The lesson learned from D&D style storytelling are simple and thankfully the support for creating those stories has improved over the years. However, much of that Bardic wisdom remains untapped.
TVTropes explains much of the possibility from theme, into mood, and character and motif to make them almost clichés. Another even offering this
These only offer a world of rules and pre-packaged techniques that can be applied and their beauty is not forthcoming lacking a true heart to inflame our passion. Because even if the emotion is expressed by a master, it lacks relevance in our current world.
The art of a good story is to craft a tail that has a life of it’s own with twists and turns, failures and triumphs, and most of all one that can be seen by other.
Beyond that a great story is never just told, but the teller also listens and interact with the other players of the game. To highlight each player’s character in a way that only they can shine.
Even to showcase a minor character in a major way to show that as the individual grows, and demonstrate