Handling Split Parties

This is a very cool concept that I’ve admittedly only ever really employed once, and it wasn’t really in regards to inactive players, it was just to handle a very large encounter in a Heavy Gear game. It actually ended up being one of our more memorable sessions, actually, as the players ran their adversaries: a southern (French-speaking) unit that they were battling in a stairway. Things got a bit silly, but even to this day we’ll jokingly shout things like “Jean-Marc! Non!!!”

I’ve never really used ‘Jamming’ for any serious roleplaying encounters that I can recall, but I can see how it could be very useful in keeping things livened up for players who’s characters aren’t present in a scene.

There are a few obvious approaches to resolving this situation. The DM can run scenes with each group of heroes in turn, giving the inactive players an opportunity to fetch a snack or use the lavatory, or the DM could also divide the various PC errands into smaller scenes, switching between groups more frequently so that periods of “down time” are shorter.

A third, and more entertaining, option was briefly outlined in the recently released fourth edition Dungeon Master’s Guide 2, but discussed at length in the second edition,  out-of-print Creative Campaigning supplement, published by TSR Hobbies in 1993. The authors of that supplement called the option “jamming,” and it greatly reduces player inactivity when only some heroes are in the spotlight.

Read the rest of the article at The RPG Athenaeum

Critical Hits Reviews Dungeon Master’s Guide 2

I must admit that with all of my concentration as of late going into preparing for Trail of Cthulhu, it completely slipped my mind that the DMG2 was out today!

For Dungeon Masters of all stripes, new and experienced both, the DMG2 is a must-have and will challenge the ideas of even someone who regularly dispenses advice on running RPGs (such as myself). This is the first 4e book that I can recommend to non-4e players for the strength of the first chapter alone. Plus, for 4e DMs, you get an extension of all that came before in the original DMG.

I must admit that I wasn’t impressed with the DMG from 4e, especially compared to its predecessors. I was told by other reviewers who liked it (and disliked the other two books) that it was a great primer for new DMs, and that may very well be true, but for someone who has as much XP as I do on running games, the only highlights were page 42, up-leveling/down-leveling monsters, and treasure parcels. The DMG2 builds on all that information and brings a lot new to the table while developing the concepts established in the original book.

Read the rest at Critical Hits

Railroading – It Encourages Nothing

Patrick Benson, over at Gnome Stew, posted a good article about how railroading can kill a player’s enthusiasm. It’s certainly something that I’ve grappled with as both a player and a neophyte GM.

About five minutes of game time into this scene there is a knock on the door. Drat! What to do? My PC took a knife out and sliced the palm of his hand giving himself a nice fresh wound. With the captain hidden, and the data crystal buried in the pocket of a two-fisted ambidextrous combat machine, the PCs open the door to some lowly NPC thugs.

“I need medical attention!” screamed my PC. “Look at all of this blood! I’m feeling faint!”

The other PC started hamming it up as well, and we began to make our way to the door. Does the GM ask for a roll? Does the GM explain what the PCs will need to do to pull off this trick? No.

Read the whole article over at Gnome Stew, the Game Mastering Blog