Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Guild of Cartographers - an Introduction

Love them or hate them, maps are an essential part of the role playing experience.  Be they player scrawls of horrendous scale or the tongue-poking-out-of-corner-of-mouth efforts by the DM during session time, they are invaluable ... especially underground.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Kelly.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Weather Permitting

Copyright ©
TSR Games.
Odd, isn't it, how your player party is traversing a hot, humid jungle, or a cold, snow-drifting tundra, or the scorching desert in search for some long lost tomb, and yet not one character will have changed out of their flimsy robes, padded leather or full plate armour?

This, my friends, will not do.  Time for a weather report.

Admittedly the main thrust of my campaigns have taken place in temperate climes, so a drastic wardrobe change has never been facilitated by the player characters - most likely due to the easy going nature of yours truly, being such a nice guy and all that guff *insert smiley face here*.



Saturday, 18 June 2011

Downed and Bleeding Out ... A thought.

Something nearly all of us have experienced (some more than others) as players is that horrible moment when any and all saving throws seem jinxed beyond belief, your armour turns to paper and all attacks have missed wildly ... and your character is down and their life blood is bleeding out into minus health.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Resurrection. A Help or Hindrance?

- BLOOD DRAINS, THE HEART FALTERS, DEATH EMBRACES -
 ~ a short fantasy flash fiction ~


  The small band of adventurers gathered gingerly at the cave entrance, its jagged granite opening silvered by a full moon.  A gentle, sibilant hiss from the surrounding trees taunted the gathered party, as leaf-laden limbs swayed in the evening breeze as if urging them onwards into the gaping maw of the cave.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Births, Deaths & Marriages

If I have one big regret regarding my time running role playing sessions from day one, it would have to be my lack of insight into the importance of keeping records.  By this I refer to the keeping of all character sheets; who played what class, race, age and gender of character and if the character died, where, how and when - this latter aspect I started very late in my DM'ing.

On the other side of the histrionics of role playing there is also the matter of player character trysts, romances, births (in or out of wedlock) and on rare instances, marriages - admittedly, something I never had occur during my time as DM.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Alignment - Which side are you on?

Copyright © Mark Kelly.
In days gone by, Dungeons & Dragons set in motion something that other rpgs - including MMOs - would copy/emulate and attempt to make their own, and that is 'ALIGNMENT '.
Love it, hate it, like it or feel 'meh' towards it, alignment is now as much entrenched within the concept of role playing as orcs, elves, dragons and outrageously big-breasted female warriors with skimpy bikini armour are.  Face facts, you can't play any role playing game without it ... or can you?

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

We Are TEN!



So happy to see that 'The DM's Screen' now has ten viewers.  

A big thank you to each of you for following, I just hope you continue to find things of interest and entertaining, and hopefully informative.


Monday, 30 May 2011

Magic, Mayhem & Money.

From the very start of any rp session, a DM has to be mindful about one thing and one thing alone: balance.

Sad to say, I have been guilty of breaking this one cardinal rule of role playing, but in my defence I will say it was done out of pure ignorance, and the fact I was a DM virgin ... plus I had a tendency to want my players to really enjoy my games, and before you know it, you yourself are being swept along on a coaster roller ride of sheer magic, mayhem and money!

"Gold". Mention that word around any role playing table and see the avarice glow appear in your players' eyes, that is, unless you mention the 'P' word: platinum - then your players would sell their mother (rp mother, I hasten to add) to get their filthy, grubby paws on such loot.

The only thing that comes close to this is the mention of tea, coffee and biscuits, then something similar occurs (and I don't mean to brag here, but apparently, I do make a pretty mean cup of tea!).

Friday, 20 May 2011

Tarl & Grudge: Part 2 - the story continues.

Having gone through various character sheets, maps and other past related rpg 'stuff', it would appear that my memory has been sorely affected by the passage (and ravages) of time.

The scenario concerning Tarl the Mystic and his stalwart companion and thug, Grudge the Barbarian, would appear to have included several or more NPCs.  I also uncovered a note delivered to Tarl and Grudge by  Seth's nephew.  This I had written on blotting-type paper and sealed with wax, then handed it over during the game session.  A scanned image of the letter is below, and for the sake of squinting, I have typed out the full content of said message.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Dungeons: Every Adventurer's Nightmare.

Just a short posting to mention one of a DM's best assets in terms of environment - the dungeon.
Many a fledgling adventurer will recall his or her delve into the murky, cobweb-strewn coldness of their very first dungeon - and if you really pay attention, you'll even see that far away look in their eyes as they re-tell it.  No matter the outcome: good, bad or disastrous, they will remember it fondly.

In this posting I have included three dungeon layouts as used in several of my sessions over a period of time.  The trick to a good dungeon is an understandable (to you) map, that if seen by the players,won't necessarily make much sense to them.  Sneaky, maybe, but players are often swayed by the temptation to steal a peek at your maps - even when you are present.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Players and their Characters ... sometimes one and the same.

Cartoonpictures7.com

Part of the beauty of running any role playing game comes from the diversity of people who will sit at your table during your DM'ing career.

I have been blessed to have met some wonderful people over the years, many of whom have become lasting friends.  On the flip side, you will also encounter your fair share of odd bods, ego maniacs and total misfits.  Role playing seems to attract them, and allowing them into your home is one of the risks you run when being the DM.  There is an upside, at least you have trusted friends at your table to aid you in ejecting said odd-bod from your game session - though it has never happened to me... thankfully.



Rule #1 of DM'ing... NEVER invite players without personal references from a member of your established rp group - basically, if no one can vouch for them, they don't get invited.

Rule #2 of DM'ing... refer to Rule #1.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

NPCs - A Short Fling, Or A Life Time Commitment?

Like any other character within a role playing game, the non player character is essential otherwise your game has no substance.  This means some work has to be put in by the DM in creating and breathing life into believable NPCs, be they simple common folk, militia, the tavern owner or the evil henchman.
When interacting with the player characters, your players must be left with a sense that they've met someone, or something, entirely different from the previous three, ten, or twenty non player characters.  Players should be seeing the non player character and never the DM playing said NPC.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Styles of DM'ing - In Brief.

Over the years my DM style has varied, depending on the gaming system used, the number of players and my own quest to find what suits me (and my players) best.

I have tried the bought scenario route, the best being Ravenloft, but found using the bought scenarios of any game system sometimes too linear.  On the odd occasion I have tried the powerful player character option (high level with magical items and armour) with a fast 'n' furious game style, but mortality of the player characters is limited drastically.  I have even split the DM'ing duties with another player, breaking the game into sections, which would then span over a number of gaming sessions.  Once my section was complete the following session was then run by the second DM.  An interesting route, as it gave me a chance to sit back and be a player, but also a chance to experience someone else's rp session style.

NPCs - The Good, The Bad and The Indifferent.

Copyright © TSR Games.


As 'Non Player Characters' (NPCs) go, I would place them into three distinct types:

  1. Good / helpful / companions.
  2. Neutral / helpful / hindering / plot-pushers.
  3. Bad / evil / obstructive / back-stabbing.



Tuesday, 26 April 2011

An Acknowledgement and Thanks ...

Something I should have done at the very beginning of this blog, and it has been very remiss of me, I admit, is to say a big 'thank you' to all those players that have sat round the table with me.  I am aware that most likely 90% will never get to read this, but I feel strongly enough to do it.
A DM without players is just a person reading a book.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Revenge ... A Powerful Driving Force.

Each session begins with a recap from the previous week's events.  This is a good practice for two reasons - it helps to reinforce placement of characters, what's been gained, lost, destroyed and who needs healing or  the learning of new spells.  But primarily, it helps me to get things organised and in the mood for what lies ahead.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Tarl & Grudge: RPG mechanics breakdown

That's the funny thing about role playing games, in the planning phase as a DM you have all these little scenarios and threads mapped out (either on paper or in your head), and what happens?  It all goes tits up.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Dragon Warriors - The First Encounter

So, Tarl and Grudge (a.k.a. Neil (Cat) and Steven respectively) had been trawling about a number of small hamlets and the odd village, when our two erstwhile heroes stumble across a remote farm.  In dire need of provisions, and severely short of water, the companions take up a vantage point near the farm to discuss the next plan of action.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Dragon Warriors - My Game of Choice.

Dragon Warriors was my first ever rpg system for DM'ing.  It was basic, straight forward - a critical hit meant instant death - and easy to get into.  But the best part?  It was all contained within 6 paperback book volumes ... sheer bliss!

It's now twenty-plus years on from the first time I thumbed through the Dragon Warriors book set, and the books are decidedly delicate looking, and in need of some hard earned TLC.  The spines on two have been reinforced with sellotape; each volume has relevant sections tagged for quick and easy access - not that I really needed them, but in the heat of battle when a player would ask a question regarding a certain ruling, there it was at the tip of my fingers.






Saturday, 16 April 2011

Thar Be Dragons!

Rummaging through my various boxes of stored rp gear I uncovered a long forgotten treasure, still in its box, the sellotape keeping it sealed browned and brittle.  It was a Great Spined Dragon.  Now a rare beast indeed, and still unassembled.


Thursday, 14 April 2011

Old, But Not Forgotten

There are tables, then there are tables.  This particular table, albeit a rather light and tiny affair, holds a special place in my evil DM's heart as it was the first - yes, THE first gaming table from which I ran my opening role playing session.  And many more would follow.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Another Year

Yup, another year slowly rolls by, as if trying not to get noticed too closely.  But, even though my failing brain cells are becoming more forgetful, seemingly by the month, I am still conscious of the fact time skulks away like a reluctant party goer at a very dull and boring engagement party disco.
But worse -  I now no longer have an active role playing group.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Fantasy vs Sci-fi vs Fantasy vs Reality. What?!

Failure or mindset?  Looking back, this is the question I ask myself.  Why was I unable to garner interest in people to 'try' science fiction based role playing?  I think the answer lies in identity.  For some odd reason players I have gamed with have a difficult time connecting with a science fiction driven universe and all its modern trappings. Whereas its opposite number, fantasy, no problem.  Could it be an historical thing?  Or the fact that, as children, we are more often told and read stories firmly rooted within the 'traditional' fantasy setting of witches and fair young maidens, or of dragons and brave knights?  As opposed to battle-suited, laser-blasting troopers versus homicidal space amoeba within the depths of deepest, darkest space?

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Advice to aspiring Game Masters / Dungeon Masters.

Veering away from the history of my climb to DM notoriety - in a good way, naturally - I feel the need to jot down some thoughts, ideas and practices of my own, some of which I hope might help the budding Games Master (Dungeon Master for fantasy - I feel it fits in better).
This post is slightly longer than usual, so please, don't be put off.

Monday, 4 April 2011

It's not all about space, you know!

For those of you kind enough to follow this sapling of a blog, I just wish to inform you that this will not be entirely about science fiction based rpgs. Far from it.  The fact is, the scfi-fi aspect of my rp experience most likely accounts for 20 - 25% of it, if that.  So there is a lot of fantasy rp tales of daring-do and fumbling to come.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Spacefarers, ahoy!

During my celestial search for adventurers willing to brave the depths of cold space and the quiet hum of a space craft engine (and my cups of tea/coffee), I stumbled across a little known gem of a rule book for tabletop sci-fi encounters/gun battles and the odd adventure in the form of 'Spacefarers'.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Desert Island RPG ...

Copyright © 2011 Mark Kelly
If I am honest, I found the whole 'Traveller' rule set intimidating and often confusing.  But that didn't stop me from creating several planets, no end of NPCs and a rather flimsy plot-line.  So where were the players?

It would seem, back in the day, not many role players (of those within my circle) were very much into the idea of sci-fi rpgs.  I continued to collect various 'Traveller' scenarios, figures and even a whole campaign. Still no players though.

Move forward another year, and I discover a role playing group. Their game night is held once a week in a reception room at a rather seedy-looking hotel at the far end of St. Mary's Street in the heart of Cardiff city centre, literally within spitting distance of Cardiff Central Railway Station ... needless to say, not the safest of areas for folks to frequent after dark, let alone a teenage lad.  True what they say about ignorance, it covers you in a shield of fearlessness so you hadn't a clue as to what the heck was going on about you.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Traveller Gathering

And so my path was set.  My personal quest clearly in my mind, I ventured out and marched with determination into the very heart of Cardiff city centre and its offering of Victorian arcades.  These arcades were*, and in some cases, still are, one of the magical touches of shop browsing in Cardiff.  The flagstone slabs, gallery-style balconies, ornate Victorian lamps hanging from the wooden vaulted ceiling and the thick, opaque glass block inlay of each arcade shop's cellar grating, worn smooth by the decades of foot traffic.

*(I say 'were', due to the fact that now an edifice of a mall-style shopping centre has been erected on the other side of town, pulling away all the shoppers from the Victorian arcades.  As a result many shops within the arcades are now closing down, leaving the once thriving, bustling arcades a former shadow of their glory days.  City Planners = sphincters.)

Friday, 18 March 2011

Snapshot arrives ... the birth of Evil DM?

It was Christmas morning, frost coated the inside of my bedroom window and the air literally froze you to the core.  Now you must bear in mind, this is a time when the family home I lived and grew up in did not have central heating, no double glazing, a fireplace in each bedroom, nor did we have a phone - and yes, our television was black & white, with access to three channels only.  That's the way it was.  But I digress.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Where it all began for me.

My very first contact with the rpg genre was at the tender age of seventeen.  I was working at a family run warehouse in my home city of Cardiff where I met a fellow workmate of the same age, who seemed, initially, a pretty intense sort of individual, head always in a magazine about rock climbing.

During one lunchtime conversation, this particular workmate asks if I'd ever heard of 'Dungeons & Dragons', and I, for my sins, thought immediately of Victorian prisons and faeries, having never encountered these two words placed together before in the same context.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

An introduction.

Copyright © TSR Games.
Welcome to this, my first ever blogging experience.  Forigve any blogging faux-pax that may arise, your patience is appreciated.

My aim with this blog is to share memories of my own role playing experiences from the perspective of a dungeon master, and considering I've just over twenty years worth of dm'ing on the table (so to speak) I'm hoping to make this both entertaining and informative.  I would also like this blog to be a platform for the role playing uninitiated to garner an insight to a much maligned and misunderstood hobby/past time/activity.

Something I will always remember and value from my time running what seemed to be a never-ending campaign, are the friendships formed around the role playing table.  Some of those are long gone and just distant memories, whilst others are still current. Either way they all served to construct the fantastic rpg tapestry of epic adventures, scenarios humorous and often fraught with danger, and in some instances moments of unintentional pathos.

Ultimately though, it is the social aspect of the gathering of friends once a week for anything from four to six hours of fantasy rpg that forms the backbone of pencil and paper role playing, no matter which rule system/setting is played.

And forgive any typo errors that might have slipped past me, I shall endeavour to track them down.

I hope you enjoy :)