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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Pathfinder Society Play

As any of my players will tell you, I am not a big fan of the d20 system – whether it’s old school D&D, Star Wars d20 or the newer Pathfinder and World of Darkness I just never really cared for the system.

Recently, I have been attending an OGREs Pathfinder Beginner Box event at my local game shop. Tonight we graduate from the Beginner Box into Pathfinder Society play and I’m actually pretty excited about it. I explored the Wizard class a bit in the Beginner box and really liked it – so tonight we shall try Barbarian!

While I still am not a big fan of the complexities of the system, I will say that I greatly enjoy the social aspect of the game!

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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Spider Attack

Trials of Everrun – The Vampire in the Catacombs

Hired by the local Mine owner / Fat Cat, Avery Diazo to clear out his mines and put an end to the killings surrounding the place, the Long Shots’ time of rest and healing is interrupted by a murder investigation in the small down to Telgam.  The events that unfolded over the next few hours did little to abate their uneasiness of the world below the city, and have solidified Jerrede’s hostility toward the humans in town.  But what’s really going on in Telgam?  And what did the city’s long-entombed Vampire teach them about the city sleeping above their heads?

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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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d6xd6 CORE Role-Playing Game on Kickstarter

Stumbled on this on Kickstarter – looks fascinating.

d6xd6 CORE Role-Playing Game on Kickstarter

A $1 donation earns an eBook of the rules.  If anyone knows more about it, let me know in the comments!  I’m intrigued.

Edit:  Their website can be found here:


The system’s creator – who was kind enough to reply to this thread and let us know where to find him – looks to be what we call at our game table “Kind of a big deal”.  He’s written for such Thirdwalling favorites as Star Wars, Deadlands and Shadowrun.  You should totally check out CORE.  I know we will be.