Dec 17

Listening Around: Drive to Work

TalesOfAGM Cross


Mark Rosewater podcasts about designing Magic: The Gathering.


These podcasts are a monologue by Mark as he drives to work. The new Magic website describes the podcasts as follows:


Magic: The Gathering Head Designer Mark Rosewater shares stories, insights, and more while driving to work. Listen in and learn more about Magic!


Designing to Work

So why should you listen to a podcast about Magic design?


Well, if you are a fan of Magic then these podcasts are bursting with trivia and insight into the design process.


If you are not a fan, then you should still give them a try. Most of the episodes revolve around the history of a particular set of cards. These would not be a good place to start for the non-Magic player.


Instead, you should track down some of Mark’s more general episodes. These are usually crammed full of good design advice. Yes, there is a strong bias towards Magic; The Gathering, but this is Mark’s speciality. However, the lessons are broad enough to apply to any game designer.


Whatever you may think of Magic as a game, you cannot deny how successful it has been. This game spawned the whole CCG industry, and thus has to be acknowledged as a good design. Thus, the pillars of good Magic design are just as applicable to all game design. Any GM who tinkers with the rules of their chosen RPG is being a game designer. Mark has some good advice for you.


A good place to start is with the Episodes 60-62. This trio deals with Comfort, Surprise and Completion, crucial elements for good design and storytelling.


Mark is an engaging conversationalist with a lot to say about broad design topics. Improve your game design skills by listening to Drive To Work.


The first 123 Episodes can be found at the old Magic: The Gathering website.


The later Episodes are at the new Magic: The Gathering website.


Happy Listening


The Listening Around series of posts are my suggestions of podcasts to which you ought to be listening.


Last time out it was the entertaining Dice of Doom podcast.


Dec 16

Christmas 2014 Interlude: Part 1

Character (4) head


Cool locations, ASP and Baba Yaga 


The brainstorming on Saturday went well. We now have the plane of Arborea, Yggdrasil and Sigil itself described in very broad strokes. The discussion of the campaign premise led to the creation of a police department called Artefacts, Souls and Potions. ASP is a suitable acronym, although it does sound a little like a villainous group.


We agreed to run a more focused campaign, than just a simple police procedural. ASP is focused on a range of illicit substances that could be smuggled into Sigil, or counterfeited within the city. There should be a wide range of stories we can tell focused around these items. However, by narrowing our remit to these items, I believe we should find it easier to think of plots. Once again, a few limitations can serve to increase creativity.


For the first time, we also recorded our session. I am currently unsure how to present all, or part, of our session. Here is a new project for me at Tales of a GM.


Moving forward, this Saturday sees our annual Christmas Special game. Once again, I tried to invite my former Players to joins us for a one-shot game. Sadly, there were no takers, so it will be just the usual trio. The premise for this game is The Polar Express set on the world of Ken Hite’s Day After Ragnarok. The North Pole has been invaded by Baba Yaga and an army of communist cyborg apes. I am expecting mayhem.


So, I shall prepare for the one-shot on Wednesday. I need to browse Day After Ragnarok again, to make notes on the communist adversaries. I expect much of the setting to be brainstormed in conjunction with the Players. However, I want to prepare some cossacks, a squad of T-34s and perhaps the Wendingo. I guess I shall also need some notes on Santa, some elves/gnomes and maybe the crew of The Polar Express. I might even watch the film for some pointers too. This should all keep me busy tomorrow.


Happy Gaming



Dec 15

The December Home for the Warlock’s Journal

journal square


The site-hopping Warlock’s Journal has moved on once more, waving goodbye to Michael at Tiny Gork’s Tinker Room.


The host for December is Vicente at Soul Guardian Publishing. The topic of the December contest is described as follows;


This time instead, the contest is about designing a room in a dungeon. It can be as complex as a passage full of devious traps or as simple as some dorms, but the room has to contain a challenge for the heroes (monsters, a puzzle, traps…) You have 500 words to describe the room and its challenge.


Entries should be system-neutral, but the usual practice is to add any mechanical information as an Appendix to the main entry. I am sure that if you really want to include system information, Vicente will be willing to add it to the final pdf. This contest follows the standard format of a 500 word maximum.


The winner will receive $15 DriveThru store credit and a copy of Vicente’s The Cathedral of Light pdf. The deadline for the contest is 26th December 2014. By choosing this theme for the contest, Vicente has ensured there is likely to be a lot of interest in the final pdf. Here is a great way to put your work in front of a lot of GMs, so I would urge you to participate.


All the voting rules, and the additional details about the contest can be found at Soul Guardian Publishing.


Best of luck, and get designing.



Follow this link for a full list of the Warlock Journal Contests to date.


Dec 12

Dragonmeet 2014 Report: The Friendly Con



The Countdown began last month, but now Dragonmeet is over.


As regular readers of Tales of a GM know, Saturday 6th December was the Dragonmeet convention in London. I had been excited about this for a long time, and the day fulfilled all my expectations.



My day at Dragonmeet began with travelling down to Dragonmeet with Phil-the-Artist. Fortunately, this all went off smoothly. The new location required a change of lines on the London Underground, which was fiddly but not really a problem. This gave us the opportunity to watch tourists taking photographs of themselves stood around the station signs for Notting Hill Gate.


Trade Hall

Our morning was spent browsing the trade hall. This was clearly much larger than last year. The new venue opened up a lot more space for traders. I felt there was more room to browse about, especially as the day progressed. The crowds I met were thickest around Chessex and Leisure Games.


There was certainly a good buzz in the trading hall. I found some cool things to buy, with a report on my Dragonmeet swag to follow next week. This will be a longer report than it was last year, which has to mean there was a decent selection of stalls.


The trade hall was also a good indication of the breadth of our great hobby. Firstly, there was a wide range of companies present, from the independent designers at the UKRP Design Collective table up to the dedicated RPG publishers like Pelgrane Press and Cubicle 7.


Likewise, there was a broad spectrum of product available. Board games, card games and roleplaying games were widely represented. I was surprised at the number of wargames stalls present. These seemed to be less busy than some of the other stands, but they were by no means deserted. Finally, there were the gaming accessories, such as the mouth-watering rainbow of dice at the Chessex stand and the awesome All Rolled Up tool kits.


See here for a review of my All Rolled Up.


The Geek Tribe were well-represented in all our myriad of forms.



Cool Gamers

l-r: Myself, Si & Phil-the-Artist

l-r: Myself, Si & Phil-the-Artist

And so to the Geeks themselves. Conventions are also a wonderful opportunity to connect with some fellow Geeks. Thus, it was great to be able to put some faces to the names from the UKRP Forum. I also met up with regular Tales of a GM commenters Kenny the Roleplaying Sage and Si.


Despite announcing my presence in Tales of a GM T-shirts, these did not garner any further readers stepping forward to introduce themselves. This was a shame, but maybe next year.


I also took the opportunity for a brief chat with some famous names from the tribe who were present. Robin D Laws graciously signed my copy of HeroQuest 1, and then gave me some advice about recreating Feng Shui 2-style combat in HeroQuest 2. Ken Hite signed one of his books for me. I even cornered Jeff Richards to chat about the delayed HeroQuest Glorantha book.


It is always very cool to have such free access to the creators of the games we love. I failed to track down Rob Heinsoo, but maybe next time. The creators I spoke with were all kind and friendly.


Seminar Goodness

This year there were two seminar programmes running. While there were many seminars of interest, I restricted myself to just two. This proved to be a wise choice, as it left us with plenty of time to browse the trade hall and chat.


My first seminar was the Gloranthan one run by Jeff Richards and Rob Heinsoo. Despite the cramped room, this was a brilliant update on current and future Gloranthan projects. Rob Heinsoo presented the 13th Age Glorantha angle, which is appealing to me more and more. This is a less-canonical version of Glorantha, so is in keeping with my own campaign.


We learnt how HeroQuest Glorantha will be delayed until all the Guide to Glorantha rewards have been delivered. The Glorantha Sourcebook, to accompany the 13th Age Glorantha kickstarter sounds very helpful to GMs. Forthcoming products include the Gods War boardgame with Sandy Peterson, a sequel to King of Dragon Pass and some hints about a Cults of Glorantha kickstarter.


See my review of 13th Age Glorantha kickstarter.


My second Dragonmeet seminar was the annual Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff podcast event. We arrived at the room early, and thereby ensured ourselves a seat. Another good choice. Once again, this was a superb experience, as Ken and Robin answered questions and generally gave a master class on how to brainstorm ideas for an RPG.


This was made especially relevant for me as Phil-the-Artist asked a question about my forthcoming Sigil PD mini-campaign. Thus, I have some pointers from Ken and Robin about how I could run my game. I feel very honoured.


See my review of the awesome Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff podcast


The New Venue

Finally, no review of Dragonmeet 2014 can be complete without reference to the new venue. As with any change, there were some good points and some areas that need more attention for next year.


The good points:

  • Improved trade hall, both in terms of sheer space and range of stalls
  • Comfortable venue, it was not stuffy or overly hot
  • Free Cloakroom, although a missed opportunity to raise a little more money for the chosen charities
  • Superb seminars


Areas for more attention:

  • Seminar Room 2 was poorly signposted
  • Both Seminar Rooms were cramped for the number of attendees
  • More seating needed around the convention
  • The Dragonmeet website was not updated as often as I would have liked


Overall, this was a good choice of venue and Dragonmeet ran smoothly. I suspect a larger venue is really needed for the convention to grow further. The trade hall was at capacity, and cramped in some of the side areas. Larger seminar rooms are also needed.


I did hear people complaining about the new venue, and the gaming areas did look very tightly packed. Yet, any change can upset some people. The convention is under new management, and they need a fair chance to put their stamp on Dragonmeet. 2014 was a good start, but I shall expect the team to learn from their experiences this year and put on an even better show next year.



Once again, I had a great time at Dragonmeet. I am keen to attend next year, and I would hope to meet even more gamers next time.


Were you at Dragonmeet? How did you enjoy the convention? Share your experiences in the comments below.


Happy Gaming


Something for the Weekend next week: Dragonmeet 2014 Swag


Dec 11

Sigil PD: Chapter 1, Part 5

Character (4) head


Brainstorming locations, Sigil’s neighbour and creating Wards 


Yesterday’s prep was rather brief, but to the point. The list of the locations we need to create is coming together for me. I created a special sheet to use for creating for significant locations. We shall need this for the Station House, as well as any significant buildings in the Ward we are using. Indeed, we shall have to choose which Ward to focus on, and then create the location aspects for that Ward.


We should probably do this for all the Wards, but one step at a time. During the course of the game, we are likely to visit all areas of Sigil, but it might be better to start detailing just one Ward at a time.Also, I suspect the game is likely to be rather intense. It is one thing to brainstorm a single location, and then proceed with the game as normal. It could be another experience to have to brainstorm multiple locations one after the other. I have a few ideas to vary the pace of things, but the bottom line is we need to create a lot of the setting.


I also printed out the name lists for Sigil and the Fey culture of Arborea as a whole. I also created a name list for Caer Tymora, the City of Seasons which stands at the base of Yggdrasil. This is the central city of Arborea, and closest it has to a capital, so could prove relevant to Sigil.


Also, I suspect the game is likely to be rather intense. It is one thing to brainstorm a single location, and then proceed with the game as normal. It could be another experience to have to brainstorm multiple locations one after the other. I have a few ideas to vary the pace of things, but the bottom line is we need to create a lot of the setting.


So, a good round of game prep. There is a little more to do tomorrow, on the eve of Game Day, but otherwise I think I am set. I am excited to make a start on the new campaign, and see what ideas we brainstorm together.


Happy Gaming


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