Sunday 24 November 2013

8 Ridiculous Fight Scenes

Many campaigns are based around cool plots, interesting characters, and awesome settings. No matter how cool your campaign intrigues are, however, you’ll need an awesome fight scene at some point. While your heroes might be fond of solving all their problems with words and skill checks, there will come a time when they get the itching feeling that the villain simply needs a good drubbing to solve all the world’s problems. This is born from the basic human instinct that all problems can be solved at a critical juncture if you simply hit them hard enough with a hammer. Classically, this takes the form of the Russian astronaut kicking the 40-billion-dollar computer to miraculously get the engines on the shuttle to start. Whatever the psychology, it’s there, and it works.

Given that you’ll need a good fight scene, we now have only to quibble about minor points of realism and what form this scene will take. Most people try to think up the craziest bad guy they can and then put the PCs in a nigh-unwinnable situation which they’ll virtually always win. Other people flip over to the ‘will-kill-you’ section of their monster manuals and then toss that at the players. Whatever your system, so long as your recognize the need for a huge showdown, you’re good to go.

The grand finales of many successful games include all kinds of intriguing elements such as: puzzles, dialogues, monologues, traps, magical gizmos, and erupting volcanoes. Instead of worrying about all that, it’s best if you just focus on the huge fight scene.

A huge fight scene needs several things to be successful. First off, the players actually have to be apprehensive about the coming fight. It’s no good if they all sigh and say, “Aw, not another dragon.” And then lazily pull out their magical long-swords. A huge fight scene which comes out of left-field is equally as problematic. Nobody can get properly scared of a fight they didn’t even know was coming. They’ll likely tromp on the villains before they realize they were supposed to be super dangerous.

Secondly, the fight itself must last a certain duration to be deemed credible. No huge fight scene ever lasted under twelve seconds. All huge fights, by definition, must last a long time. I’m not talking about dragging the fight into the realms of boredom, but there has to be time to build up the momentum in a good fight. I figure, the bad guy has to actually get at least one good shot in, or the fight doesn’t qualify.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the huge fight scene has to have a grandiose element. The whole point of a huge fight scene is being over-the-top. If the bad guy isn’t the biggest, the toughest, the meanest, and the most over-powered thing the players have ever seen—then you’re losing points fast. It may not be possible—or reasonable—to continually outdo yourself, but you can at least give the new villains some crazy edge the party has never seen before; like being utterly invincible, or shooting 30d6 laser beams from their eyes.

The following are some fight scene ideas which should probably never be used in any serious game. GMs are fond of making up their own epic battles, and using someone else’s ideas should be the last resort. That said, if you like something, steal it.

The Evil Wizard

This guy is so powerful he can do practically anything. He knows all the spells of both Clerics and Wizards, and he probably knows some 10th and 11th level spells as well. Not only that, he can cast infinite numbers of all spells at-will, cast two spells at the same time, make up new spells on the spot, and he can do anything which can be blamed on ‘magic’.

The evil wizard will probably have a ‘pet’ which is powerful enough to destroy just about anyone. He’ll make liberal use of such spells as: teleport, invisibility, and ultimate fireball. Ultimate fireballs are the same as regular ones except they do however much damage the GM wants.

The weakness of the evil wizard is that he’s so arrogant he’ll overlook obvious threats which can kill him. Not only that, he also wears no armor and can be killed by the average dagger blow.

The evil wizard makes for a good fight scene because he can do practically anything he wants with magic and that scares the players.

The Giant

No matter what this creature is, it’s huge. I’m not talking regular huge, but totally massive. This thing is so big it could step on metropolises to destroy them. It could be a dragon, humanoid, spider, piece of Jell-O, or whatever. Savvy players have respect for huge creatures because such creatures can step on them and kill them without rolling for damage. Huge creatures can also eat people which generally kills them, also.

The giant creature is rarely working alone. There’s probably an evil wizard who summoned him and an army of lesser foes around him to get squished for dramatic effect.

The tactics of a giant creature are fairly simple: eat people, step on people, fall on people (when taking damage), ignore damage with thick skin, throw unbelievably huge things at people to squish them (whales, the empire state building, etc.), and roar loudly while doing so.

To make a giant creature a credible foe, the GM must explain to the players early on that there’s no saving throw or hit point damage for getting hit with a falling building, you just die. This will make the players scared for their lives because the GM can kill them on a whim. If they’re still not scared, the giant creature can threaten to step on a metropolis if they don’t agree to chuck down their weapons and face it in a wrestling match.

The weakness of giant creatures is getting hit in the head with a small rock. Seriously, though, they’re usually incredibly stupid and slow; making them easy targets for magic, mind control, and pretty much everything else. Players are also fond of ‘going for the eyes’.

The giant makes for a good fight scene because players usually respect things a billion times bigger than them.

The Black Knight

This character is almost always a human working for some other evil force, probably an evil wizard. The black knight doesn’t say much, but he’s epic with a sword. All black knights are probably warriors of at least 20 levels beyond the highest level anyone is allowed to get in the warrior class.

In combat, a black knight is essentially unbeatable. No matter how good the party is at fighting, a black knight will always tromp them utterly. He’s tougher, stronger, and faster than anyone. He gets 15 attacks per round. His sword can cut through anything. His armor is impervious to all attacks. He rides a black horse with fiery red eyes.

The weakness of the black knight is that he’ll have nothing to do with magic, and he obeys someone else. Casting a simple spell like Charm Person or Sleep on him will probably yield an easy victory.

The black knight makes for a good fight scene because he can beat up the party to no ends. Also, most parties will attack villains on sight in melee combat, so this plays right into the black knight’s wheelhouse. If the players get wise and cast a few spells on him or fly over his head, then you may have a problem. Backing up the black knight with a wizard who casts dispel magic or fly on him can solve this problem, but make him an unstoppable juggernaut at the same time.

The Dragon

If not overused, dragons almost always make for great fight scenes. The dragon is already portrayed as one of the most fearsome creatures around. Generally, you won’t have to do much to hype up the dragon’s deadliness.

Dragons have huge size, cast magic spells, have hyper-intelligence, have incredible senses, live practically forever, wear invincible scales, and breathe fire. Did I mention they can fly?

Played properly, a dragon can use just about all the tactics of any other villain you can think of. They can potentially cast infinite spells, squish people, burn down cities, and eat people.

The problem with dragons is that they also come with huge hoards. Most players won’t let you get away with a dragon who happens to be punch broke even though he’s been laying waste to the entire world for the past 500 years. The other problem is that they’re such an obvious choice for a huge fight scene that they can easily be overused GM: “You turn the corner and see…a dragon!” Everyone: “Again?”

Dragons don’t generally have any weaknesses unless you’re feeling in a good mood that day.

The Demon

The definition of a demon is probably: an unrealistically evil creature from another dimension you can’t easily get to. He’s also really powerful and wants nothing better than to trash up the world. Basically, this means that demons work well for huge fight scenes.

Because demons come from some other dimension, you can feel justified in giving them all kinds of wonky powers the players would never let you give to anything else. Players: “He’s immune to all damage except from +4 light swords?” GM: “Oh, yes, everyone from his ‘realm’ is like that. Pretty normal there, really.” Players: “He regenerates all damage taken from anything but fire?” GM: “Yes, it’s the yellow sun of earth. It makes him really powerful here, and he can also fly really fast and go back in time.”

Demons have horns. Other than that, it’s up to you.

The weakness of most demons is something really sissy, for the most part. Generally: iron, silver, magic, or anyone who can cast ‘Banishment’. If this troubles you, just say he’s a demon prince and gets to circumvent the usual weaknesses of the other demons because of his high rank in extra-planar society. Most players won’t argue the logic of this because they can then brag about beating out a bigger foe and princes generally have more money.

Demons can make for good fight scenes because, apart from the horns, the players don’t really know what they’re facing.

The Genius

The beauty of this villain is that he can be anyone: a little girl, a bald guy, a hunchbacked Halfling, an elf with cross-eyes, etc. He doesn’t have to have powerful magic, a strong constitution, or the ability to swing a sword. All he needs to have is an unusually powerful mind.

Because it can sometimes be hard to properly role-play genius, you can simply give this kind of character infinite amounts of any resource you feel like. I.e. because of his incredible intelligence he has infinite money. His incredible wittiness has earned him the undying loyalty of millions of goblins who will do anything he commands. His super genius regularly yields up new versions of computer software and the ability to mind control people by looking at them.

Essentially, all you have to do is work backwards from whatever end-goal you have. For example, if you want him to be invisible, just say that he experimented with alchemy until he discovered the secret to invisibility but a huge lab fire torched the recipe and even he can’t remember how he did it.

The genius, despite his vast intellect, will always be trying to do something incredibly stupid and counter-productive to the world: like fill it with magma or obliterate the moon with a nuclear missile. Who knows why he does this stuff, he just does.

Like the evil wizard, the genius is most often physically weak. He’s also liable to make really stupid mistakes like creating an impregnable fortress of death lasers but forgetting to lock the door to his bedroom. He’s probably also an egomaniac, and using his pride against him could be an easy win.

Geniuses make for great fight scenes because the GM can ask the players: “What would be the smartest thing for him to use against you?” and then feel perfectly justified in using that suggestion under grounds of, “Well, he’s a genius, see?”

The Invincible Foe

When the GM is running short of ideas for good enemies, simply making just about anything ‘invincible’ can often be a great trick. Nobody’s really scared of a goblin (unless they’re new to RPGs), but if he’s an ‘invincible’ goblin, that’s a different story. Now, he’s officially annoying.

It’s a good rule of thumb that any invincible foe be given a decent attack of some sort. Otherwise, the party might just sit there beating up on him all day and that can get really tiresome.

Players are justifiably wary of invincible creatures because they’re so cheap.

By definition, invincible enemies don’t really have a weakness. However, the players will argue that any foe must have at least one weakness. Ignore their words at your own risk. Also, players will quite often find ways of dealing with pesky foes like burying them in concrete or scattering their ashes to the four corners of the globe.

Invincible foes make for good fight scenes because they’re hard to kill off. However, this can backfire if the players get too annoyed at your incredible cheapness.

Aliens and Deities

Aliens, like demons, come from really far away. They can also have whatever technology and physical characteristics you can think of. Not only that, but their weird mindset can explain just about any irrational activities you can come up with.

Deities, on the other hand, don’t really have any business fighting the PCs. It’s usually the PCs who decide to go and have a beef with them. As the GM, you have two basic options. One is to say the deity is so powerful you can’t even fight them and then it does whatever it wants. And two is to allow the fight to take place which is like admitting the guy can actually get beaten.

Deities and Aliens can make for a good fight scene because you don’t even have to explain why they’re so powerful. It’s kind of just inherent in the nature of who they are. What you ‘will’ have to explain is why the party is fighting them in the first place. Most players don’t take kindly to being attacked by aliens if you have no good reason for it.

The weakness of aliens and deities is generally up to you. Given their immortal/weird nature, you can also probably have them come back to life with less questions asked than usual. Players may get touchy when an evil wizard comes back from the grave, but if he’s Thor they shouldn’t be able to say much.

The Big Fight

Whatever you choose, try to have fun. Also try to remember that not all great adventures need to have huge fights. It just tends to end up that way.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Destination RPG Website Q&A with Rob Bondoni

Hi, Rob.

I was mucking about the net one day when I happened to come across your site through Pinterest and a review of a game I had done a Q&A for: Flint and Steel. I had meant to read only one article, but I read a second. After that I read a third. Before I knew it, I'd read almost every article you've written so far. How did you become such a talented writer? Usually, I can only get through books like Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and A Game of Thrones.

I really appreciate the compliment. I have dreamed of writing most of my life and the thought of putting those thoughts to paper literally left me hanging on inaction and very little to show when I did take action.  Fear of rejection is a powerful feeling for procrastination.  Once I discovered blogging, I discovered my love of writing again.  So now I write all the time and the funny thing is, you are constantly improving…If there is a secret beyond actually practicing the craft, I have one rule.  Every time I create a post, I want it to be actionable or beneficial to the reader.  Even if my audience does not leave a comment or pitch in to a Kickstarter I want them to feel like they have learned something valuable.

You've mentioned that you're planning on heavily investing time into helping people find ways to promote their RPGs. Time is money. What prompted this great generosity?

I believe by helping others, we end up helping ourselves.  When I created my site, Destination RPG, I really wanted to make something useful.  While I want to finish my game I found many people were doing the same thing and most of them had better grasps of game design than I did!  In those same forum posts I was looking for help, they were rejecting the idea they could even make a car payment with their life’s passion. 

We are living in a time where technology makes it possible for anyone to be a publisher and challenge the industry whales for a pie small enough to take care of themselves.

So I said to myself, I may not be the next Gary Gygax but I think I can make my mark in this industry by helping other people help themselves.

I read in one of your articles that you're working on writing your own game design. I think it was code-named Fatebreakers. Is there anything you can tell us about this system, or is it secret? How do you find the process of writing and game design as a whole?


One thing I can tell you: it has nothing to do with Fate Core!

Right now, I am working on the game setting and if there are any specific rules I expect them to be very rules light.

The concept of the game is simply there are three types of people roaming the world.

Fated characters have a strong destiny and are able to jump across dimensions melding with alternate reality versions of themselves.  Either through a telepathic connection or outright body melding. 

The Nascent have a Destiny across multiple life spans to accomplish something greater than a single life could on its own.

Fatebreakers themselves are unique in time and space.  They have no carved out destiny and can instead do as they will.  Stealing powers from Fated and Nascent.  They also change other people’s destiny simply through interference.

So the main idea revolves around player characters romping through alternate dimensions and time to fulfill their chosen destinies while dealing with certain races that can do similar thins.

You said that you weren't going to focus so much on the design of game systems themselves, but more on the promotion side of things. Is there a particular reason for this? In my experience, the actual design of systems can be one of the most important parts of a good promotion campaign. What are your thoughts on this?

Good design is very important to helping sell a game once it is released, I will not refute that.  Most successful games coming through Kickstarter though do not even have a demo or sample of people playing the game.  Instead they have a vision, some artwork, and a lot of word of mouth surrounding their game.  They can make enough to finish up production of their game and take a stab at their vision.  If their backers like it, then the creators can keep on creating. 

What's your background in RPGs? What was your first gaming group and RPG like? Do you prefer to play as a player or GM? What other games do you really enjoy? What are your favorite games and hobbies? What do you look for in an RPG? What is your current favorite and most hated RPG system? What's the funniest RPG moment in your career?
That is a lot of questions!

I am not an industry veteran but I played a lot of RPGs.  I was in fourth grade when a my best friend's older brother Patrick invited me to play D&D with them.  Patrick gave me a character sheet and forgot to tell me how to fill it out other than rolling a D20 for my stats. I think I played a wizard that first time, but I was hit by a petrify curse and Patrick asked what my saving throw was.  I had no idea what he was talking about.

When I was in high school and college all I played was Werewolf and Mage in old world of darkness.  I think I have an authority complex because I only played the GM and was never satisfied when other people would run the game.

I used to really be into World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, and Magic the Gathering.

I spend a lot of time reading and writing now.  Unfortunately I have been a road warrior for the past three years and rarely have the opportunity to even play my X-Box anymore.  So I look for games I can quickly jump in and out of. 

My favorite system is Werewolf:  The Apocalypse.  Can I say I really hate the Arkham Horror board game? Talk about overly complicated and nothing happening.

How do you think technology is affecting RPGs?

I think we are seeing technology take RPGs and turn them into video games.  I think it is a natural progression.  People love a good story and high quality writers and artists make that and the math easy.  It is an unfortunate turn for book writers though, and I think with enough positive exposure people can turn this into a growing industry again. 

What do you think the future of RPGs will be like?

More interactive books and systems being handled by smart phones/tablets.  Rule clarifications will be embedded in the books with video example.  Integration will be key.

I noticed you wrote in one of your articles that you can't rely on anyone else to make your dreams (or game designs) come true. I think this is a very valid statement. Whenever I wait on someone or something else to get the job done I always end up waiting a very long time. Was there any particular event that led to this observation? Despite your inclination to 'go it alone' is there any way other people have helped you out over the years? Players, friends, family, etc.

Once I finally had a child, a trigger switched on that made me realize I have am actually responsible for this other person.  It did not help that my wife constantly called me her dreamer either.

My entire life has been one big dream of doing something and not acting.  One thing I did after  having a child immediately was to take a job I did not expect to receive.  Traveling the country I realized that I may only have a little more experience than other people I encounter.  The major difference is I do my best to take action now where other people sit there waiting for other people to make the first move.  When I applied the concept to my personal life, I realized just taking a lot of small steps typically results in a large momentum everywhere else. 

What can we expect in the future of Destination RPG?

 As you mentioned, Destination RPG is going to heavily focus on different ways to help promote RPGs.  Not just RPG books but tabletop, card games, and even some video games. This may be through coaching, courses, or directly helping in campaigns. 

Ultimately, I want to run a convention for independent developers along the lines of Gencon, but I prefer to focus on one thing at a time.  Otherwise I end up with 22 half finished projects!

Thanks for your time, Rob!

You can check out Destination RPG at:

Monday 11 November 2013

How to Trick out the new Nexus 7 FHD with the Best Apps

Image Stolen from Google Play

So what are the best apps and peripherals you can get for the new Nexus 7 FHD? Here are some of the best apps and the reasons why you should get them. All of the below are my opinions alone and may not be relevant to everyone. I also tend to steer clear of most games and the apps which want the craziest permissions so I may have missed some of your favorites.

A bit about the Nexus 7 (2013)

Aside from Google's insane privacy policy and their habit of stealing all your personal information, the Nexus 7 is pretty dang awesome. I instantly bought the 4G version in 32G as soon as it came out on Google Play. I'm an owner of the original Nexus 7 and I still think that one was a better design physically. One of the few things I miss on the new Nexus 7 is the soft rubber backing of the other. In fact, I bought a case for the new Nexus 7 (Poetic Slimline) just so I wouldn't have to feel the slick plastic back of the new one. I kind of hate plastic.

While the physical design might not feel as cool or be as easy to use (the old one I could wield one-handed and use all controls. The new one you find yourself accidentally hitting buttons because it's a bit longer); it more than makes up for this by being a bad-ass when it comes to hardware and being even lighter than the original.

There is now some serious competition for the Nexus 7 from the Apple Ipad Mini with Retina and the new Ipad Air. However, in physical design, I still think the Nexus 7 is the winner. Also, for the price, it's unbeatable. If you don't care about the price, Ipad might be the way to go.

Some of the coolest new features of the Nexus 7 FHD:

The most awesome new feature is probably the fantastic screen at a ridiculous pixels per inch. It looks better than my TV, but the screen is still too small to fully enjoy movies and it's hard to share it with family. If you get a hdmi slimport adapter and hook it up to a TV or use Miracast/Chromecast you could probably solve this issue but I can't see the logic in paying 25$ for a movie which will nerf your too small storage on the Nexus when you could just buy the DVD instead. I still did buy one movie and it looks awesome.

Some of the screen colors did look a little weird to me, but I quickly forgot it in the face of overall awesomeness. You can quickly pick out details in films and pictures you couldn't see before on the old Nexus 7 or even my TV or laptop. Very cool.

The dual speakers improve the sound a lot. I always hook up Bose headphones, but when you want to share stuff or it's not practical to wear headphones, the speakers are a heck of a lot better than the original.

Tiny design makes the Nexus 7 (2013) just as portable as the original and even lighter. When I bang it against a table I can hear the innards rattling around which is a bit disappointing (having dropped the original a few times with no problem), but so far I haven't managed to break the thing.

Although the Nexus 7 is probably one of the lightest and coolest tablets around, I still find my hand getting tired after reading a book on it for long hours. I still prefer real books. In essence, this is a luxury machine. I prefer radio for music, laptops for computer stuff, DVDs for movies, TVs for TVs, and books for books. That said, throwing in all of this with internet and portability makes a pretty cool combination.

Camera on the back so you can take photos and scan QR codes. Nice. Only thing is, Google can steal all your photos at the pinch of a hat so I never take any personal photos. With location access, they can also probably figure out where you live. Scary.

Peripherals, What you Need and What you Don't:

Micro USB to USB Standard: I never use this. However, it does let you plug a keyboard, mouse, or anything else you want into the Nexus 7. I think this is pretty awesome. I'm just kicking myself for not getting a longer and more expensive cord. I bought a tiny one on Ebay for like 20 cents, but it still works and is pretty cool.

Good Headphones: Turn your mediocre speakers into Bose surround sound. Buy songs on Itunes, put them in a regular folder on your laptop, and then transfer them to Music on your Nexus 7. Enjoy.

2 meter Audio Line: Just a standard inl-line of high quality. Plug it into speakers to get great sound out of your device, or to watch a movie with great sound if you can get the image off your Nexus onto your HD TV. I can't, so don't ask me how (Miracast, Chromecast, Slimport to HDMI, or projectors).

Cases: I bought the Poetic Slimline. It does just about nothing, but it's a nice case and feels cooler than the smooth plastic backing of the Nexus 7. I also bought a cheap, universal 7 inch tablet case with a zipper. In my opinion this is the best buy ever because it's total protection, portability with handles, and it keeps out all the dust at work until I need the device. I protected my original nexus with 'only' one of these things. Remember to unpackage the thing on the shelf and check if the Nexus fits before buying one (within applicable laws, of course).

YOU DON'T NEED: A screen protector. I bought one and it was crap. Got a ton of dust on it, and basically it's just a piece of platic which makes your screen look ugly and unresponsive. Total waste of money in my opinion. Plus, if you're getting an awesome HD screen for a rock bottom price, you might as well enjoy it before it outdates itself.

YOU DON'T NEED: A stylus. Styluses are complete junk unless you're an artist. If you're an artist, I can't say whether it's useful or not. I bought like ten from Ebay and they don't really work. Okay, I only paid 20 cents for them, but still. Dang it, if you're buying a touch screen it's so you can use your greasy fingers on it. Go for it, be happy.

Stuff it Still Needs:

Removable SD cards, infinite storage, Windows and Apple software you can toggle off between Android, HDMI port, holograms, screen sharing with everything, lighter and smaller, better construction materials, and AI.

Immoral Data Providers:

Okay, here's the thing. All the cellular providers are unethical and want your money. They will absolutely, no question, lie to you and try to steal your money. Because you signed a contract, they can do this.

If you have any device with a data connection, never use that data until you can confirm what exactly you're paying for it. Search the web for hours, contact the customer support, I don't care. 

I cite two examples to prove my point.

1. Bell: I hooked up my tablet at Bell and they quoted me a price of 5$ -30$ for the amount of data I would use. Guaranteed. I used that amount and they charged me 400$ which they soon dropped when I made it abundantly clear they'd messed up my charges. I cancelled my plan with Bell.

2. Telus: The guy at the store guaranteed me 5$ to 30$ for the amount of data I would use. I asked him multiple times, and he assured me each time. I decided not to trust him because I'm not that stupid anymore. I checked around the net and soon found out I was being charged 100 times the price I was quoted. If I'd kept using my tablet like last time I would have incurred a bill in excess of 1,000$. Who knows if they'd be kind enough to give it back. I contacted Telus, was directed to IT, and the guy explained how they'd messed up my plan and what to do to fix it. I went into internal settings and mucked about. He mucked about on his side. I now pay the proper price for my data. Every day, I check how much I'm being billed for my data just to make sure.

Thank you Telus IT guy. You are awesome.

Moral of the two stories: Cell Phone companies don't need to have customer service. You signed a contract saying you'd pay whatever they want. The only thing you can do is cancel, or make dead sure you're going to pay what they quoted you. Use every tool at your disposal to do so: reviews, internet how-tos, IT departments, online bill checkers, whatever.

The Apps:

Okay, this was the whole point of the article, right? Sorry to get so sidetracked. Here are some of the cool apps I use along with the reasons why I use them:

 Wattpad: I don't really use this App anymore, but I had it on the old Nexus and you could check out some pretty cool stories from indie authors. If you like writing, might be worth a look.

Pocket: I don't use it much, but it's dang cool. Save websites for offline reading. Total awesomness.

AVG Antivirus: I hear Avast Antivirus is better, but I figure some antivirus is better than none and I use AVG on my desktop. I read somewhere Android is super vulnerable to hacks and it's actually surprised me I haven't got a virus which has wiped out all my stuff yet. Knock on wood.

Google Translate: Seems like a totally awesome idea, but I don't actually use it. Works the best with internet, but I think you can download some offline speech packages, too.

Phonto: This I use for my RPG mucking about. I'll get to that later. Normal people may safely ignore this App.

Hi-Q Sound Recorder Paid: I started out with the free one, but quickly found this app so awesome that I paid for the full version. Basically you can record anything you want in super high quality or toggled how you like. You can stop, pause, rename, and reorganize. Everything is in MP3 and you can stick it on your computer. Clean interface. What more do you want? 

The Weather Network: Basically, tells you the weather. Surprisingly helpful.

Chrome: Pre-installed, but dead useful with internet. The one thing I hate about it are the ads, so I use Firefox as well.

Firefox: Like a slower version of Chrome but with tons of features like ABP so you get no ads. I hate ads.

Data On-Off (Cellular Toggle): A bunch of university students made a free app which can toggle on and off your cellular connection. This is one of the most awesome apps ever. Thanks to those who created it. Since going over your data limit costs hundreds/millions of dollars, being able to kill your internet connection in half a second is dead useful. I use this thing all the time.

Dice Bag: Best dice rolling app. If you don't need to roll dice for RPGs, don't bother.

RealCalc Premium: This is a totally awesome calculator app I use all the time. It has a load of cool functions like conversions as well as all the standard features. Well, well, worth it.

Google Currents: My data-hogging and mostly useless 'news' app. It's the one I started with so I've kept it. It's quite likely there's a better one out there and most certainly one which uses less data. In fact, I tend to just look up news unless I'm over wifi.

Kindle: As far as I'm concerned, the best e-book app around. If you intend to read anything on your tablet, I would recommend getting this app. In fact, there are a number of free titles as well. If you're like me, you do all your reading with real books. I've had A Game of Thrones on my tablet for a few months and still haven't finished it, whereas normally I'd finish a book in a week. That said, if you have your tablet and not a book, it's good to kill time with a good read.

My Data Manager: The new Nexus 7 already has a built in data monitor in settings. This is awesome. However, having two layers of data checking seemed to make sense so I still installed my old data manager. Shows cool pie charts of how much data you used by any time frame and what was using that data. Very good to have, given overage charges.

Tune In Radio Pro: Basically, 80,000 radio stations streamed over the internet. With the premium version you can record your favorites. I found an 80's station which played 7 songs I knew in a row before I had to cut the recorder for supper. Very cool.

Google Pre-installed: Maps, Music, Youtube, Gmail, Chrome, Movies, Settings, Camera, Etc.: Some of these are highly useful, others I barely use, and some are pretty much useless. Since you get all these anyway, why review them?

Wikipedia: Seems cool, but I never use it.

Outlook: I had all my e-mails on hotmail which was turned into Outlook. Makes it dead easy for people to hack all your e-mails and personal information in one go. On the other hand, saves me a few seconds of logging into separate accounts to check all my e-mails.

Crappier Apps (A.K.A. Not on my Home Screen)

Minecraft PE: Probably the best game on Google Play. I haven't bothered to really play it on the new Nexus 7, but I did hack a few Survival Worlds on the original Google Nexus and give myself outrageous stuff while simultaneously terraforming a 'purist' unhacked world. Great for impressing little kids or getting them to steal your tablet.

Adobe Reader: Dead useful for PDFs and stuff. Really useful even though it's not on the home screen.

Clock: Alarms for when I have to get up for work. Cool.

Nes.emu: Play Mario. Nice. I find the controls a real pain, but if you happen to have a nice controller, it could be good.

Skype: Could be cool. I never use it.

Punch Quest: I had a lot of fun with this one on my old tablet, but haven't used it at all with the new one. It's a mindless, button-mashing video game with monsters in it.

This concludes the general-use article. The rest of this article is probably only relevent to RPG gamers. If you are one, read on below:

RPG Stuff with Nexus 7 FHD:

Okay, here's some cool stuff you can do. In fact, it's quite likely you can do this on a phone or Ipad but it might take more time. Not really sure.

A. Get Phonto for free. This allows you to put text on pictures. Get Dice Bag for free. This allows you to roll dice of all kinds on your tablet. Get Hi-Q for free to record sounds of dice rolls you can play while using the Dice Bag app. Yeah, I know it's overkill, but so what? Lastly, get Kindle and Challenger RPG or a free Challenger download and something to read it like Adobe.

B. Now that you have all your tech, head over to on your browser and download the Challenger RPG character sheet v. 3 or a character sheet for your favorite RPG system. I have a couple, actually.

C. Take a screenshot of the character sheet and crop/screenshot it again until it fits most of all the screen of Phonto. I.e. tinker with the images until you get your character sheet just how you want it. You can take a screenshot in android by holding the down volume and power button simultaneously. Dead useful for all kinds of stuff.

D. Load your perfect character sheet from picture Gallery into Phonto and then insert text of any size and font you want to create your character. Use Kindle or your RPG system download to get access to the rules. I would recommend not writing out everything because this would take forever. Instead, just put enough to help you remember key things about your character.

E. When you're sure your character is done, save the Phonto image to your gallery. Voila, you have a character and all the tools to play an RPG game on your tablet! If you ever need to edit your character, just open the image in Phonto and add stuff. If you run out of room, you can use some kind of blank sheet or whatever to write additional info in a new picture. That, or some kind of note-taking app etc.

F. Laugh evilly and play RPGs on your tablet. I would like to point out that having a physical book, real character sheets, and real dice is a lot faster and more fun. So much for high technology. That said, it works in a pinch and it's pretty funny to boot.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this article!

How to Teach a GM to be a Player?


I think we can safely assume most GMs know ‘how’ to be a player. The real challenge is getting them to actually do so ‘properly’. Due to wielding ultimate power, most GMs have a hard time adjusting to the role of player. While they might know the books better than anyone, they also have a harder time adapting to the life of a player than anyone else; including non-gamers and small children.

The purpose of this article is not to teach a GM the rules of RPGs, but to try to give the new GM a chance to keep them in line, and teach them to be a proper player. As everyone knows, proper players stick to just one character, wait their turn, play by the rules, and get along with the other players and NPCs—for the most part.

It’s often not very hard to get a GM to try out being a player. Most GMs are eager to play the games they enjoy with others even if they must resign themselves to being a player instead of their usual role of omnipotence. The first step, getting them to play your game, is then accomplished. Step two will be much harder to implement.

Secondly, you must find some way to get the GM to give up his usual role as game creator and let you take over. If the former GM is offering up descriptions of the land, taking on the roles of important NPCs, adding elements to the game, changing the rules, skipping people’s turns, fudging the dice, or hogging the show; you have a major problem on your hands. Simply freaking out and yelling at the poor man won’t help, he only thinks he’s adding to the ‘spirit’ of the game. You must find some in-game or out-of-game way to make him see the error of his ways and game properly.

Given the incredible difficulty of step two, I’ll be offering several remedies below. All have been tested—none work. If you can actually find something to get a GM to take his rightful place as player, please let the rest of us know!

1. Shut up!

Telling the GM to simply ‘shut up’ is often the first remedy a new GM will come up with. The older, more experienced GM will be sharing his wisdom both on sports and the campaign world in general. If you yell at him loudly enough, he’ll see why he never let you GM before: you’re obviously too immature and irrational.

Trying to be the bigger man, the former GM will fall silent for five minutes. During this time, the rest of the players will heave a sigh of relief and get on with the game. The new GM will feel satisfied at a job well done, and begin several major monologues. Throughout all of this, the former GM will be observing the game. He’ll be thinking about all the countless ways his game is better, how you prattle on too much, and how all the other player’s strategies are far inferior to his own. At the end of five minutes, he’ll just have to break his vow of silence because of the utter stupidity of one of his friend’s actions.

Even if used effectively, this strategy won’t actually get the former GM to interact with your game world as a player. I think it’s safe to move on to another solution.

2. “I’ll only GM if you play properly,” or Threats

The second most commonly employed solution to the GM-as-a-player problem is to threaten the GM with exclusion from the game, or something else equally as nasty. I.e. “Play properly, or else your cat dies,” “Play properly, or I won’t GM,” and “Play properly, or you’ll wreck the game and you don’t want that.”

Being a reasonable guy, the GM will quickly agree to your terms. He wants to be in the game, after all. Unfortunately, this solution depends on the fact that the GM actually has a choice in the matter of playing properly or not. Most GMs can’t help themselves. When they see a scene which needs an extra dragon, they include one. They don’t do this out of malice, it’s just second nature to them. Fudging a 20 for a critical hit on the troll can also really suit the scene, and the former GM always wants to make a great scene.

Following through on your threat will either quickly end the game, or leave the former GM feeling helpless and abused. Like a dog who keeps running in front of semi-trucks, he just doesn’t understand what he’s doing wrong, and he can’t help himself.

So, threats are a good idea, but they assume the GM actually has the mental power to change himself. Hah, that’s likely…

3. Negative XPs

Some cunning GMs will try to teach their former GM how to be a proper player. This manipulation is often not so subtle. In-game punishments for a wayward GM can include, but are not limited to: character death, unfair rules variants, loss of wealth and magic items, suspension of powers, lack of basic equipment, disease, curses, xp penalties, and constantly getting attacked by monsters and falling into traps while the rest of the party gets on with the game.

A good GM will recognize the new GM’s need for absolute power and so will allow his character to be demoted and destroyed to no ends. After all, if he were the GM, he’d expect the same of any reasonable player. He’ll also quickly get the point if he gets xp penalties for trying to be the GM.

That said, the GM will also feel he should get xp awards for doing ‘helpful’ things with your game system and rules. If he doesn’t receive these just rewards, he’ll find something lacking in your game and won’t hesitate to point it out to you. Also, even though he’s been getting penalized for trying to be the GM, he’ll keep trying to do it in an effort to improve the game, despite the costs to his own character.

This strategy would probably work if the GM thought like a player. However, the GM’s whole mentality is to focus on the ebb and flow of the entire campaign world, and not just the character he happens to be playing at the time. This weird set of priorities makes this strategy somewhat less than effective.

4. Respect

This strategy is more an element of who you are, than an actual stratagem that you can employ at will. Your former GM probably respects you no ends as a fellow person and player, but to truly keep him in line requires that he acknowledge you’re a better, older, and more experienced GM than himself. Secretly, all GMs think they’re the most experienced and competent of all GMs on the planet. This makes getting respect even tougher.

A senior GM with more years of experience will have the respect of the former GM. He’ll recognize that this person is older than him, and could probably punch him in the head really hard. He’ll try his best to bite his tongue and keep with the theme of the game.

During game-play, this strategy will probably seem the most effective of all those mentioned so far. However, after the game, the GM might comment to the other players (in private) about what he felt lacking in the game. He’ll explain all the things he would have done differently, but didn’t bother to mention during the game. Secretly, he’ll always feel like he should be the GM.

5. Show her who’s Boss

If you’re former GM has been in the business any length of time, she’ll probably still feel it’s her right to be the boss of the game, even if technically you’re the GM. At the start of the game, you can make some loud announcements about how the new rules in your game will be run and explain your zero-tolerance policy. A few swift blows from your rubber bat, or some massive experience point penalties will quickly show your former GM that you mean business.

This strategy differs from ‘Threats’ in that your aim is not to punish the GM for being a GM, but to show the GM that you’re in charge and you won’t take any flak. The best way to do this is to create a few arbitrary rules and then enforce them every time. It doesn’t really matter what rules you make up, but you must make them different than how your GM usually runs the game. For example, you could outlaw the Fighter Class and implement a spell failure chance for all mages. You could also ban combat from your adventures.

Your former GM will understand what you’re trying to do, but he’ll take it the opposite way it was intended. He’ll think it’s a sign of weakness, not strength. He’ll view your arbitrary rule changes as a feeble attempt to be different than his usual, awesome games. If you copy all his usual rules, he’ll think you’re mimicking his great style. Either way, you don’t really get anything.

This strategy sounds like it would be good, but tends to fail. Your GM always thinks she’s the boss, and there’s not really much you can do about it. It’s like trying to get your employer to pretend she’s your employee. If you can pull this off, quit GMing and go for a pay raise instead.

6. Giving him Everything or Giving Up

This last strategy can be called ‘giving the GM everything’ or simply ‘giving up’ if you’re not one to mince words.

Because the former GM secretly thinks he’s the best at everything, if you reward his character with the most treasure, experience points, magic items, and have NPCs falling over themselves with awe at his awesomeness; he’ll be well pleased. Everything is as it should be.

While the GM might still find a few minor flaws in the game, he’ll be happy in the knowledge that he’s so good at the game that being a player holds no challenge for him. He’ll make it clear he prefers to be a GM, but its livable being a great hero.

The GM will make it his goal to become ever more powerful. He won’t settle for the usual upper echelons of power, but seek even higher heights. If his character isn’t completely breaking the game, he won’t be happy or satisfied. At the point where the new GM chucks his books out the windows in frustration and vows never to be GM again, the former GM will be happy with his job-well-done as a player.

This strategy is known to work, but it ticks off all your other players, and it’s liable to drive you insane. After all, if you’re not quitting out of frustration, your former GM will still be striving to drive you over the edge with his power-mongering.

Step three, assuming you’ve made it this far, your problem now is getting your GM to return to being a GM. It’s possible, though highly unlikely, that you’ve trained your GM to like being a player better than being a GM. If this happens, are you really better off? If you like being a GM, then you can count yourself lucky. If you just want your old GM back, you’ll have to beg him to run a few games. Don’t worry, controlling the universe is heady tonic and it shouldn’t take long for your GM to get back into the swing of things.

I’m sorry this article doesn’t really give you any firm answers. Getting a GM to be a player can be a tough thing. If you have a solution, feel free to share it.

Saturday 2 November 2013

7 Advantages to Retelling your Adventures

Retelling your adventures can be a lot of fun. You’ll remember things you’d forgotten, laugh at the funny things everyone did, and it makes for a good story in the process.

Some people like to recap all of their adventures at the start of the next one, some like to brag about their exploits just after they’ve accomplished the deeds, others still wait years until they fondly recall what happened on particularly daring quests. All of these methods are fine and serve different purposes. It’s even okay if you never mention your adventures again, but there can be perks to doing so. Outlined below are seven of those advantages.

1. A Reminder for the GM

One of the best advantages to retelling your adventures soon after they’ve happened is that it reminds the GM of what was going on. With all the planning of new adventures, busy lives, and reading rule books it can be easy for a GM to forget a few important points in his previous adventures that the players readily remember.

To maximize the successfulness of this strategy, I’d recommend getting your recaps within a few days of the next adventure, if not directly before the next adventure. The problem with last minute recaps is that they slow down the game before it even gets started. Not only that, but the GM will find it quite tricky to implement anything he’s forgotten in the new adventure he’s already written up.

If you can get your recaps in a couple of days before the next adventure, you’ll have plenty of time to implement key points and you won’t have to delay the start of the game session.

2. A Tool to Develop Characters

The retelling of adventures at any point during the campaign is great for the development of characters. In the retelling, the players will reaffirm the personalities and traits of the characters they play. The other players will be able to give them impressions of their characters, and they’ll remember anything particularly distinct or interesting those characters did.

Sometimes, players won’t even remember which character they were playing in a campaign, or what the name of that character was, much less that character’s personality. Use this strategy to fight that.

A player who constantly retells the stories of his character’s great deeds is hardly likely to forget who that character was. In fact, stories have a way of becoming exaggerated and even more outrageous over time. Soon, the character will take on heroic proportions in the player’s mind. This may lead to the player trying out some stunts which are a bit out of his league, but overall it will have a great effect.

Sometimes, a player will retell the story of what his character did from a completely different angle than anyone else remembers. This can be great to give the GM pointers on what this character is truly about. What everyone remembers as the crazy guy who lit the inn on fire, might be a character the player pictures as honor-bound and seeking revenge for his long lost sister.

The GM should, obviously, watch out for characters who are being ‘over’-developed in the retelling, but for the most part things will become less confusing for everyone involved when everyone is given the opportunity to explain themselves properly. Many a time I’ve wondered at the crazy antics some of the players were enacting in a game I just ran, only to find out afterwards that I’d missed half of what they’d been saying or the logical reasons why they were doing something. I’ve even occasionally misinterpreted what a player says he wanted to do as a completely different sort of action. Hearing the ‘real’ story can help you to avoid future mistakes.

3. An Argument amongst Heroes

Generally, quarrels amongst the players are not a good thing. However, if everyone is fairly reasonable, a little bit of in-game tension between the characters can be a great role-playing opportunity.

One such opportunity is when you have some of the characters retelling their stories in-game. Given the personalities of the characters involved, the stories might vary and some of the debates could get heated. All of this serves to establish the character’s personalities even further.

Many times the players will recall things during the telling of the tale. “Oh yeah, I forgot you owe me money/favors/life, etc.” This can lead to even more arguments about who actually owes who what and if someone had their life saved, or if it was just a little bit of help.

The GM should encourage the players to role-play their tales as their characters would tell them. One character could be boisterous and exaggerate all his deeds, another could be shy and downplay his feats, and a third could be outgoing and leap about the room showing everyone exactly how he did everything. The reactions of any nearby NPCs could add drama to the story as well. They might disbelieve the party, think they’re mad, or come to admire them for their tales.

4. A means to create Rifts and Bonds

Similar to party arguments, the player’s characters can also form rifts and bonds amongst each other based on their role-playing and the tales they tell over a drink in the bar. Some characters may become close comrades while others drift apart or even become rivals.

This kind of thing can just as easily happen at any time during an adventure, but the characters will have plenty of time to banter and relax at their favorite inn which they might not have in the bush or a dungeon while they’re fighting for their lives.

It’s a good time for them to get drunk and spill all their secrets, opinions, and life stories. If the characters don’t drink, that’s fine too, it’s the gist of the thing that’s important.

5. A Spur for the GM’s Imagination

In-game or out-of-game, a creative GM will find no ends of material in the tales of his players. Their opinions, ideas, fears, hopes, and more can all be used in future adventures to great effect. Having the combined creativity of ten people is much better than just one, and a savvy GM will take advantage of that fact.

If the players are talking of a particular NPC they just loath, the GM can develop that character into a villain, adversary, or a thorn in their sides.

If they recall a character who was really funny, you can include that character in special appearances on future quests. You might even flesh out the character more.

If the players all loved a particular magic power or magic item, you might make it a possibility they can claim that power or item in a future adventure. Who gets to keep it could be an entirely different story.

If the players have forgotten all of the adventure except for certain parts, pay attention to those parts! They’re the parts the players enjoyed or hated the most and you should take cues on that for your future adventures. Sometimes the players just remember the parts where they were being awesome, but even that’s a lesson in what the players enjoy and you can figure out how to work more of it into future adventures without making your campaign a complete giveaway. Even better, if they really enjoyed some part of the adventure which didn’t involve power or stealing loads of gold, you can build on that without ruining your game.

6. A Record of the Game

Some players may even go so far as the chronicle their quests in an epic logbook of the entire campaign. This is great. You can go back on the log at any time and see what was going on in the past story of the campaign. Some GMs do this out of habit because it’s so effective and handy. As long as the player doesn’t have a skewed view of what was happening, you could get some really good information out of these logs for future adventures.

Players will often create pictures of important characters and events and possibly maps or other devices as well. All of these can be really handy to help people remember what was going on and further define the campaign’s characters and events.

7. Having Fun

For all the great things retelling adventures can do, the number one advantage is that it’s great fun. Some players have said they enjoy the tales of their great adventures more than the games themselves. If you have a great game that’s a lot of fun, and telling the story is even ‘more’ fun, what’s stopping you?