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 Post subject: Tricks & Tips for Judges
PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2011 2:49 pm 
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So by now you've downloaded the beta and are gearing up to run a playtest this weekend. We thought it might be useful to have a thread where fellow judges could share their experiences and advice in running the DCC RPG.

The game is certainly not for the faint of heart; it requires a fair bit of confidence and creativity on the part of the judge, but the rewards are that much greater. Together, we can make our games rock.

Without further ado, here are some thoughts to start us off:

Roll in the Open: I’m a *huge* proponent of cheating for drama's sake, but Role in the Open was Joseph's mantra from the first days of the DCC RPG, and it works. For monster attacks and damage I roll out in the open so that everyone knows what is on the line, and that you're not going to fudge for them. I even have players roll the damage their PCs take. (It's way more fun to make them suffer through that, and as they take their own damage, you're already moving on to the next dramatic monster attack.) Which leads to its corollary ...

Let the PCs Die: Especially the 0-level ones. It takes – tops – three minutes to roll up a 0-level character. One of the best public playtests I've run we had one player lose 5 PCs. He had a blast.

Now, this is NOT meat grinder for meat grinder's sake. Rather, it is simply applying the consequences of good choices and bad choices. Good luck or bad luck can mitigate a foolish choice or impair a good choice, but in the long run a smart player making intelligent, in-character decisions, will do well.

Unlike other RPGs, the DCC RPG System Will Not Save You. And once players understand this, they can get to work saving themselves.

20/1, Invitation for Drama: So a nat 20 or a nat 1 is a crit or fumble. Don't hesitate to also use this as an opportunity to make something very cool happen. Your players should shout when they get a 20 and groan when that 1 comes up. It doesn't mean you TPK them in an rockslide on a unlucky climb roll, but it does mean that maybe you toss them from the frying pan, into the fire.

Conversely, when they roll a nat 20, pull the stops out. Great things happen. The tide of battle turns. We see a glimpse of heroism. Drama.

Similarly ...

Don't Be Afraid to Paint the PCs in a Corner: DCC PCs, especially mid- to higher-level PCs have a lot of options. It is scary, as a judge, to allow your PCs to get themselves into a pickle when you know there is no escape. But this is also when players are at their best, coming up with creative solutions you never anticipated. Sure you might get a TPK here or there, but more often the players will come up with wacky, out of this world solution that defies all expectations.

Only Make Them Roll When It Counts: Just basic judge advice, but I repeat it here to remind myself:

Players have a finite attention span. As judges, their attention is our most precious resource. Spend it where it matters.

Do we really need to thief to roll that climb walls check or the warrior to make a strength check to open the door? Well, yes, if the thief is climbing through an ice cave and about to fall into the chasm of doom, or if the warrior is being chased by an ogre. But otherwise, why risk an ignominious end, or at the very least, a waste of their attention, when you could be getting to the real adventure?

While the game isn't necessarily about heroes, the leveled PCs are definitely competent at their trades. Permit them to be so, and add risk when it matters.

Print out the Spell Sheets: Prosaic, but vital. If your player's PC knows a spell, do him or her a favor and print that sheet out prior to the game. It is more problematic with the clerics, but a wizard can easily come to the game with all his known spells in hand.

As one judge to another, I’m looking forward to hearing to hearing how the playtests go and what advice you’ve gleaned from your sessions.

Now go break this game!

//H

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DCC Resource thread: character sheets, judge tools, and the world's fastest 0-level party creator.


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 Post subject: Re: Tricks & Tips for Judges
PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2011 4:30 pm 
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Great post, very helpful!

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 Post subject: Re: Tricks & Tips for Judges
PostPosted: Sat Jun 11, 2011 2:48 pm 
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Joined: Wed Sep 15, 2004 6:02 am
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Location: On the run.
Following on the heels the release of the beta, we solicited a few of the other lead developers for advice on how to run a DCC RPG game in the spirit of Appendix N.

Michael Curtis is the award-winning author of Dungeon Alphabet and author of an upcoming DCC adventure. Doug Kovacs' artwork has graced the pages of dozens of RPGs, and his paintings and maps established the tone of the DCC RPG. Together, Michael and Doug participated in dozens of playtests, hammering out the rules in preparation for the beta release.

Doug Kovacs offered up four recommendations:

Quote:
1. In order to write you should read. Keep reading classic fantasy and sci-fi. Reread what you have read, or read what you've missed. I personally never get tired of going back to Lovecraft or Tolkien and there is still plenty of stuff I haven't studied yet in appendix N. Any kind of mythology is good source material as well.

2. Look at still art for ideas. Moving pictures seduce us all but illustration allows us to think our own thoughts in a way they quick cuts and forced emotion never will. Look at all the old RPG art that got you into gaming in the first place and then think a little more about it. Cool inspiration can also come from even older sources: check out Bruegul, Bosch, and Durer. Come to think of it, if you look at those last three guys, its also ok if you watch Ingmar Bergman's Seventh Seal.

3. You absolutely must listen to Rush, Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath and Hawkwind. You can listen to Priest and Maiden too if you want.

4. When running a game the main thing to avoid is coming anywhere near boring your players. If the game slows, make something happen even if it's not part of the script. There's no way a DM can predict everything that will happen in a game and like any good story you want some surprises. A DM should always have an answer to the PC's questions, but when they can be arbitrary try to make them engaging and not seem banal. Tell the players the door is made of dark wood with rusty hinges as if it really mattered. Maybe it will. Remember the sense of smell, and tactile sensations. Experienced players can add a lot to your game so let them add as much as they can and they will enjoy the game that much more. I've often asked my players for a name of a tavern or a NPC in a pinch. You'll find players remember names much more easily when they have given them to you.

For more inspiration and art visit dougkovacs.com.


Michael Curtis shared the following thoughts:

Quote:
What sums up the stories that DCC seeks to emulate most to me is ‘ambiguity,’ especially that of a moral sense. Looking back over the tales from the pulp era and into the late 1960s and early 1970s, one sees that there is seldom a sense of black and white morality, or good and evil at work in these stories. Everything is painted in varying shades of gray. From wide streaks of larceny in such heroes as Fahfrd, the Gray Mouser, Cugel, and Conan, to the outright anti-hero status of Elric, nobody wears a white hat and it’s only when the welfare of others coincides with the good of our antagonist that we ever seem to see “selfless” gestures occurring.

Even the characters that the heroes in these tales interact with have their own hidden agendas and motivations, ones that the heroes only learn about when they find themselves betrayed by these same individuals. Treachery is rife in these tales and it should also be common (but not so common as to make the players always expect it) in your own adventures.

A judge setting out to start a DCC campaign should have read at least six to a dozen titles from Appendix N, enough to identify the common elements that connect these tales as being of the same genre. In addition, the would-be judge could do a lot worse than attain a little familiarity with film noir and hardboiled detective stories. The ambiguity of morality that occurs in these stories is very similar to that in pulp fantasy. It doesn’t take much to imagine the events of a Raymond Chandler tale occurring to Leiber’s Twain or picture Phillip Marlowe on the case in Lankhmar. There is a lot to be mined there, much of which is not only useful, but you can be sure it will be unexpected by those players who restrict themselves solely to fantasy fiction.


//H

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The lucky guy who got to write some Dungeon Crawl Classics.

DCC Resource thread: character sheets, judge tools, and the world's fastest 0-level party creator.


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 Post subject: Re: Tricks & Tips for Judges
PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:32 am 
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For me, Doug Kovacs' point 3. about music was spot on. I read all of The Lord of the Rings with Mike Oldfield albums playing in the background, and so now, if I want to instantly travel back to the late 70's and early 80's or get into a heroic fantasy mood, I just need to listen to those or his later albums again. Similarly, if I want to get into a Traveller mood, I listen to Rupert Hine's three signature albums. I suspect particular music will have the same effect for many, just like Proust's cup of tea.

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 Post subject: Re: Tricks & Tips for Judges
PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:45 am 
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As much as I love most of those groups, I hope he doesn't mean music at a gaming table. I have issues with hearing and find that my concept of too loud occurs at dB levels far lower than other folk seem to enjoy BLASTING "background" music.


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 Post subject: Re: Tricks & Tips for Judges
PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2011 6:09 pm 
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I still listen to Rush in the car on the way to a gaming session. :D

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 Post subject: Re: Tricks & Tips for Judges
PostPosted: Fri Jun 24, 2011 4:35 am 
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DCCfan wrote:
I still listen to Rush in the car on the way to a gaming session. :D



I still fondly recall thumbing through the Gygax-written Monster Manual 2* while listening to Judas Priest's Defenders of the Faith on vinyl at 14 yeras old. I kept thinking the duergar (which I'd never heard of before) would make excellent "defenders of the faith". Nowadays, if I happen to hear a Priest song when my iPod is on Shuffle, I chuckle..........and rock out. :shock:

*This one:

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 Post subject: Re: Tricks & Tips for Judges
PostPosted: Fri Jun 24, 2011 5:52 am 
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Harley Stroh wrote:
Roll in the Open: I’m a *huge* proponent of cheating for drama's sake, but Role in the Open was Joseph's mantra from the first days of the DCC RPG, and it works. For monster attacks and damage I roll out in the open so that everyone knows what is on the line, and that you're not going to fudge for them. I even have players roll the damage their PCs take. (It's way more fun to make them suffer through that, and as they take their own damage, you're already moving on to the next dramatic monster attack.)

This is my preferred Judging (DMing/GMing) style - roll everything open other than a few skill checks in which the results can't be immediately known. It makes for more deaths but also more dramatic events when everyone can live or die with the settling of the dice (I imagine it's a bit like the group excitement at Craps or Baccarat). In the past decade I've stopped using a GM screen completely and sit more intimately at the table with my players (I use a nice leather dice-cup to swirl-roll the very few secret checks I need... I can peer straight down to see the roll but others at the table can't see at any other sitting angle).

I'll add that a wonderful book to buy (PDF is available cheaply from e23) is Robin's Laws of Good Gamemastering which is 32 packed pages of advice for those that run games. My favorite from that work is: If things start to stagnate, have some Ninjas bust down the door!

-Dave


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 Post subject: Re: Tricks & Tips for Judges
PostPosted: Sat Jun 25, 2011 6:00 am 
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Cold-Hearted Immortal
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wavemotion wrote:
I'll add that a wonderful book to buy (PDF is available cheaply from e23) is Robin's Laws of Good Gamemastering which is 32 packed pages of advice for those that run games. My favorite from that work is: If things start to stagnate, have some Ninjas bust down the door!
I agree. I have Robin's Laws and find it to be a fun read and helps get me started sometimes when I get stuck.

By the way, Robin's Ninja advice is a direct rip-off of Raymond Chandler.
Raymond Chandler wrote:
"When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand."
--The Simple Art of Murder (1950)
:oops:

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DCC RPG playtester 2011, C&C playtester 2003,T&T since 2003,
ADRP Since 1993, OD&D player since 1975

"The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs, He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own."
-- Gary Gygax
"Don't ask me what you need to hit. Just roll the die and I will let you know!"
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