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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Goblin Interstitial: Gaming Philosophy

I really need to play more D&D. Or any RPG for that matter, but I don’t have the schedule for it. My work schedule isn’t overtaxing, but it’s erratic enough to break up any ambient creative energies that might try to coalesce.

RPGs and I have an interesting relationship. I’ve known about them virtually my entire life (thanks Dexter’s Lab and Disney’s Recess!). I want to say I never actually role-played in any real form (besides regular childhood stuff) until high school, but that isn’t quite true. In Elementary school, I had a friend who was a big fan of the Deltora Quest book series. I hadn’t read them at that point, and he would sort of…run me through the books, as if I was the main character, Leif. it was neat.

In high school, I went through a couple of different “I’m not part of the group” phases. One of the phases was me asking my best (and pretty much only) friend if we should try playing D&D. I GMPC’d the first game, and I can still remember my first character, a Turban-wearing, battleaxe-wielding sorcerer named Jack Redwave. I convection roasted an Owlbear. And don’t even get me started on what my friend’s monk did.

One thing that I’ve held pretty true is that story should always be a pretty important part of RPGs. You can thank Hickman, Weiss, and Salvatore for that. I’ve been a really avid reader my entire life (sometimes to the detriment of other things), and the “flow” of a story has always been the most interesting part of RPGs.

As the Pathfinder game that kicked me out can tell you, I’m not that great a player. I refused to turtle before every single room in the dungeon and I always wanted to do things the “clever” way, plus I get really bored waiting for “my turn”. My real passion is running games, where I can worldbuild, create interesting characters on the regular, and be constantly interacting with the rest of the people at the table.

My favorite method of DMing is pretty spontaneous. I read through a lot of the books, and then I create a list of “Cool Stuff” to use. Example:

  • A good-aligned lich living in the walls of an old church
  • An assassin dryad ninja who is out for revenge for the death of her sister
  • A ship graveyard that was turned into an independent  floating city

And then I lead the players in the direction of one of said cool things. Often just as waypoints on a larger journey, but it makes the world seem that much bigger.

As far as the entire scope of a campaign goes, I honestly can’t help you. I’ve got a confession.

I’ve never “finished” an RPG. Ever. I’ve been playing for almost 7 years, and I’ve never had a game come to a satisfying conclusion, or even a conclusion at all. They’ve always been interrupted. It’s frankly depressing.

I always plan these epic journeys where the characters have interesting things happen to them, they defeat a big bad, maybe even get a girl or two, but I’ve never even taken a party over level 7.

If anyone has some interesting stories they’d like me to share for them about their D&D experiences, email them to me. If I like them, I’ll post them here.