Nov 29

Writing Goals, 29th November, 2015


TalesOfAGM CrossHi Everyone,


Another day mostly running to time. As I take a break between the chores, I can update you all about my week. It has been a busy weekend, while supper and bathing the boys remain ahead of me.


So, on with the update. Previously on Tales of a GM:


  • 5 hours – Primary Goal – Crestfallen RPG text
  • 1.5 hours – Secondary Goal – Smolensk pdf
  • 1 hour – Tertiary Goal – Johnn Four Pitch
  • 2 hours – Social Media – Visit different Forums and write five posts or comments
  • 2 hours – Write long blog post
  • 30 mins – Weekly Task – Website
  • 2 hours – Fiction – Picture Book text


The big news was the completion of the nomad book for the Crestfallen RPG. This was returned to me on Saturday with a few minor edits. I am very pleased to have completed the project within the deadline, and for the client to be so happy with what I wrote. A small effort this week, and the project is complete.


Layout for the main text of the Smolensk pdf is also complete. I only need to add art, links and bookmarks, and then that should be ready for release. I had some great progress last week.


Moving forward, I have a light schedule this week. December is full of prep for the holidays, which needs time devoted to it. There are letters to write, presents to wrap, and probably a few more to buy too. However, if I do not allocate some time to these tasks, they become lost in my busy schedule. The risk is simply running out of time, and having a stressful Christmas. So, I am assigning time now.


Which gives me the following schedule:


  • 2 hours – Primary Goal – Smolensk pdf
  • 1 hour – Secondary Goal – Crestfallen RPG edits
  • 1.5 hours – Social Media – Visit different Forums and write five posts or comments
  • 2 hours – Write long blog post
  • 30 mins – Weekly Task – Planning
  • 2 hours – Fiction – Yawn Picture Book text
  • Bonus – Johnn Four Pitch


Also, next weekend is Dragonmeet, which I have been looking forward to for months. This also needs some time to prepare for.


I hope you had a productive week



Nov 27

The One Ring, Part 1: Fellowship Formation


The One RingThe Lord of the Rings is arguably the ur-text for fantasy roleplaying, especially games in the high-fantasy mode. Therefore, it is no surprise that Middle Earth is a popular property for RPGs. I have fond memories of playing MERP, and still have a small collection of the incredibly detailed ICE setting books.


The One Ring

This is the latest licensed RPG set in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The One Ring is written by Francesco Nepitello, published by Cubicle 7 in 2014. The game describes itself as follows:


In The One Ring Roleplaying Game, you take the part of the heroes of Middle-earth. You will travel the land, uncover its secrets, take part in its unfolding history and encounter its inhabitants and legends. As the Shadow creeps back across the lands of the Free Peoples, you will uncover hints of what is happening, and have the chance to play a part in the struggle against the Enemy.


The One Ring is available from DriveThruRPG [affiliate link]


Origins of the Fellowship

One of the clear parallels between the work of Tolkien and RPGs is the adventuring party, an apparently disparate group of heroes who band together on a quest. This trope is at the core of D&D, and I am sure it traces its origins to the company of the ring which set out from Rivendell.


Therefore, it is only appropriate that The One Ring has rules for the process of forming a fellowship. Seeing this formalized here made me wonder why creating the fellowship, adventuring party or heroband receives little attention in other games.


Fellowship Formation

The process of creating a fellowship is summarized in The One Ring as follows:


After the players have finished creating their characters, they should discuss with the Loremaster the circumstances that brought the group together and forged them into a company of adventurers.


The rules then outline the steps to add more detail to this brief narrative, and it is with these steps that the guidelines in The One Ring really shine. This process is split into three parts:

  • The Story of the Fellowship
  • A Web of Friendships
  • The Fellowship and Mechanics


The Story of the Fellowship

First, the Players decide where they met, in collaboration with the GM, or Loremaster, to use the correct term for The One Ring. The location is likely to be a notable fortress, city or other secure dwelling. Here is a great opportunity to start feeding Players background details about the setting.


It can also serve as a starting point for a round of Player-lead setting creation.


A Web of Friendships

The second stage of Fellowship creation in The One Ring requires each Player to nominate one Hero as the focus for their character. This bond grants the Hero some minor bonuses during the game. My affection for this step lies not with the mechanics, which can easily be tweaked to fit any rules.


Rather, I like this for the party dynamics it creates. Every Hero in a game of The One Ring is questing with a close friend, mentor or inspirational figure. So long as the Players embrace this approach, it will create some fascinating roleplaying.


Nor do these relationships have to be symmetrical. While the Ranger may admire the Elf, the Elf is free to bestow her focus on the Wizard. Or perhaps everyone is focused on the Ranger, making him the central figure in the Fellowship. However these relationships map out, they should create some dynamic interpersonal relationships during the game.


This part of the creation process reminds me of how we use DramaSystem, by Robin D Laws.


During the course of the game, a Hero can draw upon this relationship to inspire them to greater action. However, should the focus be injured, especially if the Hero could have prevented the injury, then the Hero suffers emotionally. This both reinforces the relationship to the focus, and provides motivations for scenes within the story.


The Fellowship and Mechanics

The final aspect of the Fellowship outlined in the creation step is the mechanical benefits within The One Ring. While I do not want to discuss the details of these rules, I applaud the principle. The best way to make Players care about some aspect of the setting is to enshrine it in the rules. Thus, if the Players can extract a mechanical benefit from membership of the Fellowship, then they are more likely to care about the Fellowship.



The One Ring assigns a pool of tokens to the Fellowship, which any member of the Fellowship can draw upon so long as at least half of the membership approve. This is such an elegant rule, not least as it opens the way for conflict within the Fellowship, if the necessary approval cannot be found. Furthermore, if approval is withheld, then the petitioner can use the bonus anyway if they accept an equal amount of Shadow, an indication of how far that character is falling into darkness.


Fellowship at your Table

The Fellowship creation rules in The One Ring can easily be carried over to your game as a useful Rules Widget.


One Ring Fellowship Formation QuoteConsider the following options:

  • Require the Players to narrate how their group formed, and use this as an opportunity to create a little more of the setting.
  • Have each Player choose a Hero to be their character’s closest friend, mentor or inspiration. Where possible, include this relationship on the character’s sheet as an ability.
  • Create a pool of bennies, or similar rewards, which the whole Fellowship can draw upon. Ideally, add a penalty clause for when these bennies are used without the agreement of the majority of the Fellowship.



The rules for Fellowship formation in The One Ring are light and elegant. I love how they bind together a group of Heroes, yet still allow for tensions within the group. Join me next week, where I explore the Fellowship Phase in part 2 of my look at The One Ring.


How do you create a Fellowship in your game? Do your Players even think about their relationships within the adventuring group? What else would you add to the Fellowship Formation process? Share your thoughts with your fellow GMs in the comments below.


Do you need more Tales?


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Happy Gaming



If you enjoyed this article, then please share it, or the associated quotations. You may also be interested in the following links:


Something for the Weekend last week: RPG Blog Carnival: Narrative Surprise


Something for the Weekend next week: The One Ring, Part 2: The Fellowship Phase


Nov 26

Sigil PD: Chapter 35, Part 3

Character (4) head


Planning a new schedule, partial prep & weaving a final plot


One of my resolutions for 2016 must address my work/life balance. Thursday games night has not happened for months, and I need time set aside for game prep. I really need to revise my weekly schedule. Thus, it should be no surprise to you when I announce too little game prep was achieved yesterday.


If you want surprise, you should look to the November RPG Blog Carnival!


Now, it is not all doom and gloom. I completed all the admin for the last session, and much of the session outline for Saturday. All that remains is to think up the instigating event to kick off the story, and then create any narrative elements which this event needs. Plot creation is both the most interesting part of my game prep, and the hardest.


As stated previously, I want to move towards the climax of the campaign. The obvious solution seems to be to collect up the loose threads from earlier plots, weave them together and throw them at the Heroes. So far so good, and so easy, but how to draw the Heroes into this mix of unresolved stories?


Still some thought required.


Happy Gaming



The Prep in Progress series are short summaries of my prep for my ongoing campaign The Tales of the Hero Wars


Nov 25

Tales of the Dice 45: Quacking


45 Quacking


It had to happen. Once I started making jokes about ducks, we had to find our way to Glorantha.


For those unfamiliar with the topic, the Durulz are a race of duck-folk found in Glorantha. Their presence in the game seems quite divisive, but they have their share of fans. I am not sure about them, but then I have yet to play in a game where they appear. A good portrayal in an RPG may convince me to add them to my campaign.


Once again, the “gag” works best with a cockney accent. Probably not going to travel well, then.


Issue 44, Ducking, can be found here.


Happy Chuckling



Click on the picture for a larger version.


See the Tales of the Dice page for a complete listing of issues.


Nov 24

Sigil PD: Chapter 35, Part 2

Character (4) head


Work/life balance, a final plot & Player input


Despite a break in gaming, or perhaps because of it, I never quite found the time for game prep over the weekend. Once more, it is my lack of progress with the game which reveals the flaws in my work/life balance.


So, with a game to run on Saturday, I need to work through some prep tomorrow. It is all the usual suspects: the admin and the session outline. Sadly, the previous plot ended last time out, so I need a fresh instigating incident. We have some character development for next session, but I will need to kick off a plot, too.


As we approach the end of the year, perhaps it is time to drive towards the climax of the campaign. December is likely to be disrupted with holidays, so it is unclear how much we can game through the month. Thus, even if I set a final plot into motion, it is likely to run into the New Year. Plus, there tends to be a high degree of Player input into how the story plays out, which makes it difficult for me to script anything. I greatly prefer this method of storytelling, but it does mean I cannot plan out exactly how long we have left in the game.


Of course, the Players are perfectly entitled to ignore the hooks I place before them. Instead, they may want to flee to the planes, or pursue the budding romance with the minotaur. Yet, I do need to dangle an instigating incident in front of them.


Either way, I have plenty of work to do for tomorrow.


Happy Gaming



The Prep in Progress series are short summaries of my prep for my ongoing campaign The Tales of the Hero Wars


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