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About Game Instructions

I've been reading a lot of quick starts for games recently. These are the short 30-page-ish versions of games that are designed to entice you to buy a full-priced product. I generally find these lacking in one way or another, which can keep me from buying the game altogether.
The Gamemaster (GM) section of a book is really important to me. There are many games where I skip it altogether, but in others I really enjoy the rules. Some of my favorite books for GM sections are the Cypher System Rulebook by Monte Cook Games, Blades in the Dark by One-Seven Design and Fate Core from Evil Hat Productions. They all have good examples and advice for Gamemasters to prepare their games. I've found that there are a few things that are really important to me to understand a game.

1. A well-explained task resolution system. I feel like most games need a single primary mechanic, which needs to be well-explained with examples and commentary. Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars series does this…
Recent posts

Playing Cypher - Transparent Difficulties

I've realized lately that I'm doing something very different from the play examples in Cypher System books. I've been telling my players the difficulty levels of everything before they roll.
I think this is because the majority of my games have been one-shots, demos and short arcs at home. But I like it!

There's been little consistent growth in play, so it's been natural for me to make things really transparent for players. Here's what I mean: A player attempts a task. They describe it, saying what they want to do. I tell them the difficulty number (i.e. 5) and what they have to roll to beat it (15). We use Skills and Assets to modify the difficulty. They get the opportunity to apply Effort. Then we roll.

That's how I've been running the game. I notice that the Play Examples in the book and most games I've seen keep difficulties secret. I think this is a natural thing in role-playing games but I don't know if I like the practice. It seems to me …

Numenera adventure - the Dangerous End

I recently ran my first streamed Numenera game. The following are the notes I made for the session. This was a one-shot, so I focused on the scenario and how players would respond to it. I don't typically create a lot of notes for a game so I feel this is a good representation of my prep.
I also feel like there are a couple things that really add to a Numenera game: XP cards and  a Cypher Deck. The XP cards make it easy and fun to trade in XP during the game, which I really like. The Cypher Deck makes the chore of generating random Cyphers painless and fun. I definitely recommend these products!

The adventure notes follow with additional after-game notes made in italics.
The Dangerous EndBackgroundSalliceA settlement on the edge of the Steadfast, Sallice is dangerously situated but the opportunities are too good to pass up. Recently the market for Numenera found in surrounding ruins has made Sallice a target. More raiders and abhumans are appearing, attempting to take the …

First Numenera Stream - Reflections

This Saturday I did my first Twitch stream of Numenera. I've been streaming D&D for about 11 months and this was my contribution to the growing energy of the Numenera 2 Kickstarter.
The group that we assembled was mostly first-time Numenera players. The exception was a friend who has played Numenera twice with me before at Meetup events.

It was a blast! I made myself nervous with my initial scenario, which was intended to tie into the Ellomyr narrative of the Kickstarter. As the KS campaign went forward my scenario fell out of touch with what had been unveiled. I tried a couple of revisions but knocked out my final scenario that morning in about 45 minutes.

The players were amazing. They went through the Numenera Player's Guide in the days before the game and got their characters set. They developed connections between themselves and gave me a lot of detail to work with! As much as I love reading the Numenera setting, my players immediately started declaring details and cr…

Skills for Harry Potter in Fate

I love Harry Potter! At home we talked about the idea of a Harry Potter game, inspired by Mark Plourde as mentioned on the Cypher Speak Podcast. So here's 2 ways to handle it: as a Fate skill system.

In Fate Core, the game expects 18 skills. Here's a trial of mapping Hogwarts school subjects to skills.
Care of Magical Creatures
Defense Against the Dark Arts
Dueling - replace Fight and Shoot
Flying Lessons - replace Drive
History of Magic - replace Lore
Muggle Studies
Potions - replace Crafts
also non-school subjects

The school subjects cover almost everything I'd want in a Harry Potter game, but I wanted to be able to explain why the Malfoys are so well-known and connected without using school subjects, so Contacts and Resources stayed in from Fate Core. Additionally, Provoke and Rapport seem important for dealing with other wizards (and perhaps House Elves). …

GM Intrusions for Character Depth

One of the best ways to keep a Cypher System game interesting is to use GM Intrusions! I've found that they take the place of random/wandering monster encounters, add dramatic or comedic moments to games and give GMs an opportunity to reward or challenge players when a session demands it.

To explain the idea to the unfamiliar, Experience Points are a currency in the Cypher System. You use them to re-roll and to declare story details, similar to FATE or FFG's Star Wars RPGs. In a GM Intrusion, the GM gives a player 2 XP - 1 is a reward the player keeps for themself, the other they give to another player.

As a GM, you need to give out a couple of XP during a game, otherwise your players may not be able to make character advances at the end of a session. Those XP can be crucial for re-rolling failed rolls and keeping the story favoring the characters! As a GM, your reward for helping your players gain this crucial currency is to craft an exciting moment for the game in the form o…

Story Ideas for FATE

I've been interested in FATE for a while. It's a great premise for a game system but so different from games like D&D that I'm really taking some time to wrap my head around it.

One of the great things about FATE is that there are so many great ideas in the base material! The Evil Hat Patreon/Worlds of Fate series has amazing ideas. The Fate System Toolkit and Adversary Toolkit are awesome products - in fact, the Regency Romance spread in the Adversary Toolkit will probably be the first FATE game I run, because it's something my wife has wanted for a long time.

The hardest thing to understand how to do well in FATE is aspects. Suggestions in Fate Core is that aspects have both positive and negative connotations as well as boundaries. Instead of 'Strongest Man Alive', a good aspect would be 'Strongest Man in the State'.

That final quality defines the possibility of conflict with other 'strong men' in other states. There are many other things …