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Crumbling UpKeep: The First Time GM

Sending your PC into hordes of rampaging monsters: easily done without a second thought.

Wielding Magic that has the potential to tear worlds apart: Sure, what is the worst that could happen?

Stepping behind the screen and GMing a session: Terror has never been so real.

It’s a scenario I’ve seen over and over again: a player wants to become gm, but they don’t know where to start. Either that, or they are so intimidated by the prospect that they stay away from it indefinitely. The idea seems staggering. So much power! So much responsibility!

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The Astar Uln

The Astar Uln Pantheon, also called “The Companions,” are worshiped by the wood elves and some others, though many more prayed to them in past eras. This is their story, according to the Elves of the wild.

The darkness was barren, save for a seed and an endless wind that gently moved through it. The wind was cool and soft, the kind that whispers love poems to bare skin in the spring time. That was the wind that existed before all other things. That was the wind that would bring the rain.

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Crumbling UpKeep: Be a Better Player!

Being a better player is about a lot more than figuring out the best build for your character. Everyone loves a good dice roll with lots of damage, but there is so much more to the game. Being a better player isn’t something you do just for yourself; it benefits the entire group. The goal is for everyone to have fun, right?

Role playing games are a group activity. You’re all making a shared story using some dice. While part of that story should be enjoyable and unequivocally yours, the same is true for the rest of the group. The game is about everyone’s characters and even the GM in a way. You all get to take part in this really special thing, which entails a certain amount of responsibility. Have fun, but make sure you’re a good neighbor.

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Crumbling UpKeep: Starting a new campaign.

This article builds heavily upon the previous one which spoke about what to do before and during session zero. You can find it here.

At this point, if you’ve gone through session zero and its pre-prep, you have a lot of tools in your bag. You know at least a little about your world, the player characters, and the histories of both. Now you just have to mold all that chaos into something cohesive and compelling. This is the fun part. You get to begin crafting the mightiest epic of all time!

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Crumbling UpKeep: “Don’t Split the Party!”

“Don’t split the party.”

  The very phrase seems to be known by every adventuring party ever. If ever a character starts making plans to go off in a separate direction, one of the players is guaranteed to shout this from across the table. If you ask the internet, it won’t hesitate to chime in and let you know what a mistake it is, citing personal examples of character death and misfortune. Scooby Doo’s “Let’s split up, Gang” does not apply when it comes to D&D.

   The basic understanding here is that there is strength in numbers. If the GM throws the big bad at the characters, they’ll have an easier time dealing with it if everyone is together. In a game based on random die rolls, bad things are bound to happen when it is most inopportune. Praying to any intangible gods of luck won’t save players from the game master’s wrath when characters go separate ways.

  There is an even more meta aspect at play as well. Many comics and memes have painted Game Masters as vengeful gods who only exist to punish players. The trope exists for good reason, as those types of GMs absolutely exist. Splitting the party means you’ve made the game more difficult for the GM to run and their vengeance shall be forthcoming. It’s not IF that big bad comes when the party splits, its WHEN, because the GM will make sure that it does. This isn’t a GMing style I endorse, but we’ve all seen it.

  There is a third reason I’d advise against it, and one that is not often considered. Splitting the party has the very real potential to make the game less fun. By doing so, you’ve taken one game and essentially made it two. That means that whenever one half of the group is playing, the other half isn’t engaged. They are no longer part of that story. Sure, some players will still hang on every word, but many more are going to be going to their phones or having disruptive side conversations. That’s not really their fault, however. They came to play a game, not watch one.

   As a player, when faced with the option to split the party, I’ll generally try and take a read on the GM and see what they think. Barring a glance from them that tells me otherwise, my inclination is to stay put. There is always a way to rationalize it in character. It keeps the game together and fun for everyone, which should be the main point.

   From a GM perspective, however, splitting the party can be a great engagement tool if it’s done right. There are times when every player is at work doing something different. Each one has their own little aside in a separate area. It seems unavoidable. When it happens, I focus on two things: length and cliffhangers.

   Keep each player’s turn short and sweet. That way, no one is waiting too long for the lens to shift. That doesn’t mean you have to finish their task; just the opposite, really. Give each player just a snippet at a time, with the knowledge that you are going to come back to them. This lends itself really well to the second technique.

   Whenever you can end one of these snippets on a cliffhanger, do it. These don’t have to be huge. It’s almost better if it is not, as a major happening every moment feels a little soap operaish and cheapens the impacts you want to be larger. Did they open a chest? Let them wait until their next turn to see what is in it. Maybe an NPC asks them a deep or unsettling question.

   “UnQuat stares at you menacingly, his jagged smile unnerving you by its very presence. ‘The Dark God comes,’ he says. ‘She demands a sacrifice. What will you give her?'”

   That would be a great time to take a break and move onto another character. Its a big question and deserves a big question. Any players not involved in the scene listening in will be on the edge of thier seat. The player in the scene in question gets time to think of an epic reply, which can only help the story. If it works out, it keeps everyone engaged and active in the story, even when it isn’t about them.

   There is another time when splitting the party can be a great resource for the GM. An extended split can do some great things for storytelling, role playing, and character development. I’ll cover that in the next article, “It’s Been a While.”

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A Traveler’s Guide to Samsarras: The House of Nothings

   The House of Nothings lays a quarter mile outside of Varrek proper atop a small rocky outcropping. It is ruled by the Council of the Veil which consists of Cillehartly, Annatree Slipbound, and Cartania the Brass. All three are master illusionists.

   Cillehartly is an elderly Gnomish woman, bent of spine and slow of speech. Originally from Gnomehome, Cillehartly came to Varrek when the city was still young. She made the pilgrimage to pledge her services to Varekussius in exchange for magical knowledge. They have been close ever since. Continue reading “A Traveler’s Guide to Samsarras: The House of Nothings”

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A Traveler’s Guide to Samsarras: The House of 1000 Doors

“One thousand doors, but never one.”
Del Harun Saying

   The House of a Thousand doors is said to be connected to the outside realms. If the fireside tales told late at night in the taverns are to be believed, one can find a doorway to any place or perhaps even any time if they know where to look. There are not many that can verify that information as there are no visible doors on the outside of the structure. Continue reading “A Traveler’s Guide to Samsarras: The House of 1000 Doors”

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A Traveler’s Guide to Samsarras: Wyrlynth

   Wyrlynth is lady and protector of Zan Zan Turina. In her draconic form, The Eternal Wyrm is snake like, without wings or appendages. Two massive horns protrude from her head. The elder Drake, having complete control over her size, can grow to such a magnitude that she dwarfs all other dragons of the world. Yet, at her smallest, she is the size of a tiny snake. Her size at any given moment is not her most impressive feature, however.

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A Traveler’s Guide to Samsarras: Zan Zan Turina

   The City of Sin. The Den of the Snake. The Blood Sands. Zan Zan Turina is known by all of these names. It sits in the middle of Qua’ Lorn, it’s walls standing in defiance to the world. It lays upon the only known mine of darkstone, the rock that the gnomes refine into gunpowder. It also hosts multiple gem mines as well as a gold mine. It’s wealth makes this singular city more powerful than many nations.  Continue reading “A Traveler’s Guide to Samsarras: Zan Zan Turina”