Goblin Interstitial: The most powerful DM tool at your disposal.

So, throughout my tenure as a DM, I’ve garnered a few tricks of the trade that make my job just a little bit easier. I’m feeling charitable, so I’ll let you in on the biggest innovation in gaming since the to-hit roll. It may seem a little crass, but the sheer brilliance of it will blow your mind.

Are you reading intently by now?

Steal anything you can get by your players. And a few things you can’t.

I occasionally challenge myself to see just how much I can do to stretch immersion. If you wanted to say, slip the entire plot of Fight Club into your game. Do it. I have. It’s actually really easy, depending on how subtle you are, and just how many in your group have seen it. If I were to approach my players with “You hear the sounds of a scuffle around the corner. If you choose to follow it, you find a young half elf exchanging blows with apparently no one”. That immediately draws the whole group in. As soon as they learn that his name is Tyaldur Denn and that he runs the soapmakers guild/laundry, the players who have the movie fresh in their minds might get a little suspicious, and when he invites them to a secret club that meets in the laundry basement, that’s when the rest of the alarm bells will go off. The subtlety comes in when you space out this information, perhaps even over a session or two, at that point, by the time the jig is up, they rest of the players will look at you with a collection of looks that either say “this man is the cleverest guy on the planet”, or they’ll look as if you just told a really bad pun (and who doesn’t secretly love puns?). Either way, by this point, you’ve still given them an interesting set up, and from there, you can decide whether or not to stick to the movie, or throw them a curveball (hint, use the curveball. Keep those sons-of guessing). You’ve got whole universes of fiction to pilfer. Your players can’t have read all of them.

RPGs are the best medium for idea stealing. It’s not like anyone’s going to sue you over adding Gollum to your D&D game. Have some fun with it. Some call these “references”, or say they were simply “inspired by” a certain work. I say I just stole an entire dungeon from the ending scene of Freddi-Fish 3, and I’m extremely happy about it. Who the hell remembers that game besides me? They aren’t going to notice. Plus, saying I stole something of that type makes me feel like Carmen Sandiego. She stole locations too. and she loved it. Don’t you want to be like Carmen Sandiego? No? Liar.

If you’re not too amazed by my DMing savvy, and aren’t currently preoccupied scraping your brains off of the wall behind you, leave a comment or find me on twitter at @GoblinGilmartin and harass me. I don’t mind. I’ll get back to movie reviews shortly. I just need a LOT of time to recover from that last one…

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Proper Party Put-together.

I’d like to make this little impromptu post to address a concern I’ve had. As you may know, I’ve been slowly growing weary of D&D. I don’t WANT this to happen. I love D&D. I love the stories I get to tell, the decisions I get to make. It’s amazing. But I’ve had to deal with a lot of…interesting players. It seems to be a growing trend that players always fall into one of three categories: People that build characters for versatility, People that Build characters for their Special Little Snowflake (SLS) status, and for the purposes of this article, the people who do it “right” (remember folks, cum grano salis I’m only one man). Here’s my issue. At it’s core, D&D is a game about creating a team that works well together, has adventures, faces dangers, and generally cracks skulls. 

When I see a party that ultimately looks like this:

I say to myself “What’s the point?”. You’re all basically playing the same character. There’s little variation, there’s no real stand outs. Everyone is functionally the same. You can all do magic, you can all use magic items, and you all have a lot of points in Dexterity.

And when I see a party that looks like THIS:

Just…Are you freaking kidding me? It creates a case of “If everyone is special, then no one is.” They probably bicker, because each player has so lovingly created a unique and tormented backstory that strives to dominate the narrative. And believe me. This game will be narrative heavy. All the players will talk in character in low tones, growling at each other.

“But Goblin!” I hear you saying. “This type of party can totally work well together”. In a perfect world, yes, sure. But we live in a world of selfish, broken people who have a hard time empathizing with others. If you didn’t want to deal with this type of person, you’re in the WRONG hobby, Dave.

Here’s my argument. D&D is a team game. A good team is made out of individual pieces that work together. checks and balances. Not everybody is going to be great at everything, and not everybody should. Playing with different strengths and weaknesses means you actually have to do this crazy little thing called relying on others.  The best part of playing a more traditional party, doing it “right”, is that each archetype, those being stuff like Cleric, Fighter, Thief, Wizard, all have dozens of interpretations, each one with its own bailiwick of abilities and outlooks on life. Simply amazing opportunities for role-playing. Try them out next time, instead of making that CN Dragon-blooded half-demon Hadozee soulknife-necromancer you’ve been thinking about, consider seeing what kind of mileage you can get out of an Elven Wizard. You may surprise yourself,

Diceroller Flicks: The Gamers

Okay. On with the show…

This week we’re looking at The Gamers.

Made in my home state of Washington by Dead Gentleman Productions in 2002 for about $1000, The Gamers is a love letter to late night gaming sessions with your friends. It opens with almost VGA level graphics of the main player characters, it’s acting is a bit on the poor side, and the writing was good not great, but none of that matters. If you have any experience with gamer movies, you’ve seen this one.  It pretty much invented the genre, or at least defined it. You can tell by their casual mentions of “the dark elf with the scimitars”, that they were being very careful to not get into any legal trouble, and the name of the game is never actually mentioned.

The movie starts off with an introduction to the player characters (and yes, I finally mean players in the gaming sense, you can relax now) and a text crawl that mentions an evil plot by a villain called The Shadow. bunch of dorks standing in their dorm hallway, chatting about something gaming related, one of whom wants to use the new sword of ogre decapitation he got, when a girl in a nearby  who is trying to study for finals goddammit tells them to be quiet. I’ve never been to college. Do people actually study there? I thought it was all drunken orgies…nevermind…

The gamers enter their little conference room, and get set up for their game. One of their players, Mark is absent, being out with this girlfriend. More dialog is tossed around that at a glance sounds like something a gamer would say, but isn’t: “I got your dice right here!

Then we learn that the DM has gone with the classic tried-and-true method of character motivation: Killing everything and everyone the character has ever loved.

gm1

WHYYYY!?!…Because I said so. That’s why.

They receive a letter telling of a kidnapped princess, whose only hope is them. They go to investigate, and decide that the answer they seek might be at the bottom of a bottle of dwarven ale in nearby tavern. I’ve only been in one game where drinking a bottle of dwarven anything has ended well.

gm2

Uh…Rogar? Buddy? You alive?

The thief goes to get more drinks, and in the process tries to steal everything physically possible from the guy sitting at the bar, including his pants.

Then the director walks in, angry that they left him behind to die in a previous battle.gm3

God I love director cameos, don’t you?

The angry warrior is about to kill the party, when Nimble the Thief attempts to backstab the poor guy with a ballista. There’s nothing against backstabbing with siege weapons in the rules, so it’s okay, and he proceeds to turn the obstinate giant into chunky salsa all over the tavern walls. Since they’ve now scared everyone half to death and can’t get any information off of the gore-splattered commoners,  they leave.

Having ruined any chance of the DM being able to give them information, he resorts to having the princess show up as a blue jedi spirit and tell them where she is.

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Help me…Please help me…I am a prisoner in the dungeon of the castle. My name is Zelda…wait, what? Shit, wrong game. My bad.

The group journey’s onward until they reach a river, and thanks to a system of flaws and perks, the mage is afraid of water. In their attempts to knock him out they get a little overzealous and end up killing him. Short one party member, they travel along the waters of Puget sound until they get ambushed by “The Bandit King”. The elf kills the Bandit King before he gets a chance to pontificate overlong (that means make a boring speech, for those not in the know). The DM vetos this, and continues on anyway, attacking the group. They appear to be losing, until they remember that Mark’s character has been standing in the background, staring off into the middle distance. Mark shows up, and wrecks house, winning the battle with a berserker bonus

gm5.

A thousand-mile stare like that is usually reserved for the DM when he realizes one of his players is missing…

So they continue on to the castle where the princess is being held, and outside they find a familiar face. Their mage from earlier, or, wait, a completely different mage who just so happens to be played by the same actor and player. Adding new characters to a pre-established group is hard, okay?

They travel through the castle, until they come upon The Shadow, an evil Dread Pirate Roberts-type. After getting their asses handed to them, the mage comes up with a plan. Using baleful polymorph, he turns The Shadow into an ogre. The rest of the party consider this a very bad idea, until the fighter remembers the sword of ogre decapitation in his bag. They curbstomp the ogre and the day is saved, except that…the princess is nowhere to be found. they travel further into the castle, eventually stumbling upon a strangely well-lit corridor with a door, behind which they can hear voices. They decide to take no prisoners and charge into the room, in which a bunch of familiar dorks are sitting, Playing D&D. This leads to the most literal case of a total party wipe in existence as the movie ends with the girl from earlier storming in, not noticing the bodies, and tells the characters to shut up so she can study.

 

That was trippy, right?

Portrayal of RPGs – 4/5

The movie really feels written by a gamer, albeit one who was prevented from making more specific jokes thanks to copyright. I think if the movie had been allowed to actually say what game they were playing (all of their gamebooks had the covers taped over, but you could see they were using D&D 3.5 manuals) as well as reference it, it might have been a bit funnier, like it’s sequel, which we’ll get to next time.

The Plot – 4/5

I actually wasn’t sure how to rate the story here. It’s a standard fantasy save-the-princess plot. The dialogue was poor, and sounding like things someone thought a gamer might say if the observer had only been to a couple of games. But this movie did a great job with very little. was a pretty solid flick that made it’s way to having a cult-following among role-players. It’s got definite heart, and every gamer should check it out, unless they have to study.