Whether I’m acting as Game Master or not the thing I dislike the most about any tabletop roleplaying game experience is a group who interacts in isolation from each other. As a player I want to interact with the other players through our characters and as a GM I hope to see this behavior from the people in the group. There’s several reasons for this and a technique I began using a few years ago helps tremendously. So let’s get into it.
How long is a typical session of fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons? When I was much younger with many fewer responsibilities my friends and I gathered to play D&D for a lot longer than the game sessions I experience these days. Scheduling and time management are factors in this as well as the influence of online gaming both streamed or simply using communication software to connect with fellow players. Newer Dungeon Masters and those curious about what life is like on the other side of the DM screen already have lots to consider (and feel anxious about) and session length is rarely something I see discussed when it comes to 5E D&D or any other tabletop roleplaying game for that matter. So let’s get into it.
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel Nerdarchists Dave and Ted take a look at a social media thread about the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons experience from a “self-parody account” that tagged Nerdarchy. The thread presents a fun topic for consideration and discussion. Do the onramps to great power for 5E D&D characters reflect a community and rule set much different than the creators of the game’s original vision? It’s a deeply abstract notion to explore. So let’s get into it (a little bit anyway — I’m not writing a master’s thesis here).
Salutations, nerds! Today we’re going to talk about sharing responsibility when it comes to tabletop roleplaying games and the ultimate responsibility — to the other people at the table. The important part of a good tabletop RPG is making sure everyone has fun. That’s you and everyone else whether you’re the Game Master or a player. On paper this sounds like a big part of what the GM is there for and in a sense this is correct but the GM has a lot of things they’re already responsible for keeping track of and as a player it’s a good idea to keep tabs on each other’s mental weather.
Salutations, nerds! There’s a lot of discourse online about optimization of fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons character creation and what options to take when you level up. And honestly…we’re still talking about this? A lot? In 2020? In 5E D&D? This has to be an exaggeration. Excuse me a minute while I do a quick online search — oh. Oh, I guess we are.
Salutations, nerds! Today we’re looking at combat in a tabletop roleplaying game and how you as a player contribute to describing them and fostering a more cinematic experience. I can imagine some of you reading this tentatively thinking, “But isn’t this the Game Master’s job?” And actually you’re right — to an extent. Players possess some degree of agency when it comes to how their RPG characters fight is perceived. Now the discussion becomes how to get those cool moves across without being an attention hog.
A scream shatters the midnight quiet. The distant peel of thunder forebodes a coming rainstorm, welcome among the red rocks of the desert. Cloth rustles against leather, metal occasional clinking as the merchant shuffles through her pack. These present scenarios, each evocative and distinct from the next. Whether it’s Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder or any other tabletop roleplaying game each session is just as much improv theater of the mind as it is a codified game. Fans of live plays like those found on Critical Role, Nerdarchy Live and any number of other streams know the value of evocative descriptions and setting the scene. And when it comes to immersing players few senses are as captivating as the sense of sound.
Words have power. Just ask Ursula Le Guin. Plus, language is so much a staple of stories and storytelling we’ve even codified it in tabletop roleplaying games into a proper mechanic. When it comes to the words our RPG characters use perhaps the question isn’t, “What words should I say?” but rather, “What words would I say?” This brings us to today’s topic — vernacular. Okay, I know it’s a big word but vernacular is the everyday language used by ordinary people. Speaking of, now’s probably as good a time as any to forewarn this article contains cursing and a dissertation on cursing and racial slurs. So if you’re not comfortable with either of those topics or reading some everyday curses then maybe seek out another of many articles.
Tabletop roleplaying games are absolutely amazing. Not only do they allow us to bond with others on the fundamentally human levels of storytelling and cooperation but they also provide safe spaces to explore problem solving, social situations and identity. In a tabletop roleplaying game you take control of your character, allowing for a degree of agency you simply don’t find in other avenues like video games and that’s part of what makes them absolutely magical! Who doesn’t love thinking of a character to participate in an epic story, where you can choose to be a mighty hero or an imposing villain? Roleplaying games are for everyone.
Helping to run a small business dedicated to tabletop roleplaying games puts me in a position to think about RPGs. A lot. While I consider myself far from an expert game designer or theorist I’ve got to assume writing, editing, planning and considering these games leaves me with at least a little insight and today I want to share a profound moment from my RPG experiences. A while back I wrote about how the best RPGs let you know clearly up front what the game is about. The post found traction and stimulated good conversations. The idea for that post came after reading an early backer version of Vaesen — Nordic Horror Roleplaying and you can check it out here. I bring it up because this post also comes from ideas inspired from the same rule book. One small sidebar in one of the mysteries included with the game changed my whole perspective on verisimilitude and reminded me the importance of remembering we’re still playing a game. So let’s get into it.
You’ve done it! You finally have a few sessions of tabletop roleplaying games under your belt and everyone had a good time. Sure, there were hiccups along the way but you did it! You actually got through the first major arc of the campaign you wrote and everything is going swimmingly. Then, it happens. It’s not your fault. It might not be anybody’s fault. Or worse yet: maybe it is someone’s fault. Sooner or later every gaming group will fall into conflict. Whether it’s an argument about the rules, a character’s actions or any number of other things, players are human and conflict is bound to happen both at the table and away from it. Dungeons & Dragons is fundamentally a social activity. This means there will be growing pains like there are with any other social group. If you’re the Dungeon Master, your players may even look to you to referee their bout. Stay calm. Breathe. Let’s talk about this.
How many players are in your Dungeons & Dragons group? While some struggle to find anyone to play with my experience is the vast majority of us are forced to turn others away who want to play, just due to sheer numbers. With tabletop roleplaying games more popular than ever, large gaming tables are the new standard. There are a variety of hiccups and bumps on the road stemming from a larger gaming group, and while the glamour of streamed games like Critical Role might suggest running a large group is easy it’s important to remember many productions of D&D games have entire crews behind the scenes, ensuring that everything runs smoothly.
Over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel we create a lot of video content. There’s thousands of videos celebrating our passion for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop roleplaying games. (But yes, mostly D&D. We love the game!) One of our favorite videos to make are the Adventurers League Character Build Guides. We come up with a character concept and put it together soup to nuts. Along the way we explain why particular choices get made, building a character from 1st-20th level. Mechanical elements certainly factor heavily into decision making but practical reasoning and roleplaying share equal importance. For a little inside baseball it is almost always the latter ideas where a CBG begins. At the moment we’ve got 32 CBGs over at Dungeon Masters Guild, all pay what you want. Nine of them have achieved copper bestseller or better status, and there’s also four other PWYW products over there, which are encounters or adventures you can drop right into your 5E D&D game. Today I’m here to share one of my favorite CBGs, one I’ve been playing in a wonderfully fun game run by Esper the Bard on his YouTube channel.
During a recent conversation with Nerdarchist Ted he told me about a fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons game he ran. Each month Ted runs a live stream game sponsored by RPG Crate. Time was a factor for these sessions, which typically run about two and a half hours. Because the adventures included in the monthly subscription box are packed with content Ted streamlines things to adjust for his group and the time constraint but in the most recent session the game threatened to end before the party reached a satisfying conclusion. Ted felt in a pickle. An idea sprang to his mind, and he utilized player agency in a wonderful way as a solution. His DM tale stuck in my mind and I’d like to share some thoughts on how player agency can be an incredibly useful tool for a Dungeon Master. So let’s get into it and as bonus I pulled the video of Ted’s game. Enjoy!
Welcome to Nerdarchy! For nerds, by nerds. Today we’re sharing a message from the whole team. Nerdarchists Dave and Ted and Nerditor Doug along with Megan R. Miller and Steven Partridge are the folks you see, hear and read from every day here on the site or over at Nerdarchy the YouTube channel. And while we’re no strangers to working from home we understand how challenging this time is for everyone around the world. Fortunately, our hobby and the community is resilient and robust, and we can all find some comfort and solace (and yes, a bit of escape) through our favorite tabletop roleplaying games. Finding joy in our games and each other is more important than ever right now! Everyone at Nerdarchy wanted to do something for the TTRPG community so we came up with some ideas to help you explore online gaming while everyone employs recommended health safety practices like social distancing. We’ve also created a special way for you to select some of the Adventures & Supplements from our store for free to add to your games. Stay nerdy!