Game Master Tip #8 – What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?  As said by Shakespeare’s Juliet “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” And while our star-crossed lovers may still have quaffed their apothecary’s brew, I doubt audiences would be as eager to attend “Garth and Janet” as they are “Romeo and Juliet”.   But what can we do to improve our characters’ names?

Whether creating the next big villain or simply adding some good back-story flair to that goblin the party just decided to interrogate, creating a name for your non-player characters (NPCs) can set the scene as well as any physical description.

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Crafting Series – Custom Dice Tower

Last week, we examined some guidelines to using dice towers.   In that article, we made the recommendation that users make their own towers rather than springing for the available store bought.  While there are quite a few great plans out on a simple web search for making these simple gadgets, once again we will put our money (all $2.00 of it) where our mouths are and show how to create a custom dice tower. This step-by-step tutorial shows how to lay them out and glue them up, and offers suggestions for improving our simple design!

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Dice Tower

Dice Towers – Useful Tool or Gaming Gadget?

A big part of the Thirdwalling gaming philosophy is breaking down the game into its component pieces, enhancing the key elements of play and discarding the frivolous components.  Some upcoming entries will detail the contents of our pack, highlighting how this philosophy has led to a streamlining of the game experience without a lot of extraneous clutter.  But for now, our philosophy has had very little need for something as bulky and single-purposed as a dice tower.  Now we’ll decide if we were right in casting off this gaming gadget, or is it an indispensable piece of tabletop technology?

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Crafting Series – Custom Screens

In a previous entry, the Thirdwalling crew examined the role of the Game Master Screen and the barrier it can pose to effective communication at the game table.  This week, we’ll take a look at the basic construction methods of building a custom screen for use in your game.  This screen is fairly basic, but we will discuss some options that the Thirdwalling staff has explored on other custom screens that could benefit you at the table as well!  Fair warning:  This is a picture-heavy article as it contains a picture-tutorial of construction.

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Player Tip #5 – On Absentia

The past few weeks have been a hectic time for the Thirdwalling staff.  The turmoil has reminded us of one unequivocal fact:  Life happens.  Whether it’s schoolwork piling up, vacations, family obligations or stress from the day job; players will occasionally miss a game session.  The way you handle that absence as a player can mean the difference between a seamless night of play without you or a polite invitation for you never to come back!  This week’s player tip explores the steps you should take as a player to minimize the impact of a missed session for a long-running game.

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Map Example

Map software!

In a recent GM Quick Tip we talked about websites for gaming maps.  We got a lot of great feedback on the Tip as well as some good comments from a lot of map makers.  However, one cannot build a gaming empire on randomly generated maps and Google Image searches! So what software do you use when you want to make your own maps?

Below are a few of the resources that I employ at the Thirdwalling table when I’m building maps for my current Trials of Everrun game for map and dungeon building!

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Game Master Tip #7 – Keeping Players’ Attention

Our lives are full of distractions and the game table is no exception.  Whether the group meets in a game shop or the game master’s living room, they’re constantly bombarded with everything from cell phones to children, significant others and work emails.  A big challenge to the modern game master is keeping their players’ attention over the din of this constant bombardment to the senses.  By applying some of the same principals used in public speaking in business, game masters can capture the table’s attention and keep it despite the worst distractions their players can dream up.

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Peeking over the screen.

The Communication Barrier a.k.a The Game Master’s Screen

If they are used properly, storyteller’s screens are a valuable tool in running and managing your game.  Used improperly, these paper walls can be an imposing barrier between the players and the storyteller, a physical manifestation of the subconscious castle that inexperienced (or just plain bad) game masters take shelter behind to avoid player conflict.  By reducing the height of this castle wall and placing it strategically on the table we can transform it from a castle wall to a stage curtain that empowers the game master in productive ways.

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Game Master Quick Tip: Dungeon Map Resources

With the right map, an encounter goes from “killing a hagmother” to “hunting a hagmother through her subterranean warren, finally cornering her in her hidden back room for her final showdown.”  Before each major encounter at the game table, I spend hours scouring the ‘net trying to find just the right map to enhance the evening’s events.  Once I’ve found it, I’ll use graph paper or software to add features and aspects to make it uniquely mine.  In all that searching, I’ve amassed a small stockpile of “go to” map sites and I’ll share the ones I use most here with you; Map-a-Week Archive – This is my go-to for castles and cities.  They’re clean and make good props when printed on linen paper.  There’s some good single rooms in there, too.  Good for random encounter rooms in a bigger dungeon you’re building. B&W Dungeon Maps – These are just good solid dungeon maps.  And the best part is they’re creative commons!  They translate well to graph paper when I’m looking to make changes, and most of the dungeon maps from The Trials of Everrun came from their black and white inspiration.  I keep a few of these in the back of my campaign folder all the time, just in case I need to improv something! Random Dungeon Maps, Random Cave Maps, and Random Wilderness Maps – These are great, quick tools.  Lots of good customization in how you want it.  Especially when I’m drawing my own maps, I’ll use random dungeon or cave as the starting point and build my own from that structure.  They have a great Gallery, which makes for good leisurely browsing when you’re looking for something special to add to an existing map.  A random map from combined with some of the special rooms from Wizards Map-a-Week Archive (above) makes for some good encounters! Dungeon Generator for D&D – A lot like Gozzys but it generates the whole dungeon, including monsters and traps.  I have not yet had the chance to use it, but the traps feature has me intrigued.  I always struggle with where to put traps, so this makes it easier!

There are a lot of great resources out there for maps, but those are my “go to” sites when I’m planning a campaign or building an encounter.  I should also include a shout out to the “Micro Maps” and “map-Making in Games” communities on Google Plus.  There are some really talented map artists over there and I’ve learned a lot just admiring their work.  They really inspired me to take maps out of my head and put them onto graph paper!

If this helped you or you’d like more like this, please consider following our blog!  The more followers we get, the more we’ll post!

Have a question for the staff?  Want to share your own map resources?  Put it in the comments!

Game Master Tip #6 – Choosing a Space

Nearly as important as what you play is where you play.  As the gaming community has matured, it has left behind the days of attracting players to mom’s basement or the picnic table at the park.  Instead, the modern player wants to be comfortable and have all the amenities of home, like power outlets for their electronics, snacks and comfortable furnature.   It seems like every day technology is holding a stronger presence on the game table, making these comforts of home even more important.  So what should game masters consider when they’re choosing a space to host their game?

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