You can find hundreds of podcasts covering all manner of tabletop RPG subjects, from how to optimize a Pathfinder character to storygame actual plays. But some of my favorite RPG inspiration comes from what I call RPG-adjacent podcasts.
Some of them touch on RPGs directly from time to time, but mostly I enjoy them because they help me see the world a bit differently, which is always helpful for a game master. I also get some of my best GM ideas by piecing together bits and pieces from these shows. Read more
A good game master welcomes the challenges that come with the role. A really good game master can even make money at it. Then there are game masters whose impact transcends the game entirely. This Three for Thursday examines game mastering as a craft, a vocation, and as a means of lifting spirits. Read more
The 100 is a post-apocalyptic TV show with an intriguing premise: Survivors of a global nuclear apocalypse have stayed alive in a space station for generations. They believe the planet below them to be uninhabitable until they send group of 100 juvenile delinquents to ground, who discover that they’re not alone.
The 100 invites criticism. Somehow humans stayed alive in space for generations without any muscle degradation or loss of bone mass. Finicky technology keeps working for decades without fail. Almost everyone is hawt. You get the idea.
But it’s also a show that provides lessons for running a campaign in a setting where scarcity pushes factions and individuals into repeated conflict. Five seasons in, here are a few of the things about the show that fascinate and inspire me as a GM: Read more
Today my barber told me the story of how he and his wife traveled across the country back in 1969. He recounted every city they went to, in sequence. He told me the names of the hotels they stayed in, and what specific part on their VW bus needed replacing when they swung up to Montreal.
I’ve been a steady client for years, and the precision of his memory astounds me. I can’t remember what I did last Friday, and he can recall what day of the week it was when he watched the moon landing on TV. His powers of recall are mind-boggling .
I’ve run several post-apocalypse campaigns over the years, using a variety of game systems:
Gamma World — gonzo mutant jackrabbits and all
Aftermath! — 20 years after a nuclear war, using my hometown as a setting
Twilight: 2000 — the default WWIII-is-petering-out setting
Basic Roleplaying — zombies take over America in multi-generational campaign
Apocalypse World — small, isolated enclaves eke out a living, avoiding poisoned skies and other enclaves
NEMESIS — WWIII-has-just-ended journey across the remains of America
Mutant: Year Zero —the NEMESIS campaign extended forward by three generations
Along the way I’ve learned a few things about post-apocalypse settings and running campaigns in them. Much of that education has come the hard way, through trial and error, and I’m certainly still learning. As with any GM advice, your game is your game, and some or all of this may not make sense for you and your campaign. So take it as food for thought. With that in mind, whether you’re already game mastering a post-apocalypse campaign or are in the planning stages hopefully some of these suggestions will be helpful. Read more
If a biological armageddon hits the United States, how do vaccines reach Americans quickly? In the event of a nuclear war, who gets the word out about who is in charge and what laws are being enacted?
If you’re planning backstory for a post-apocalypse campaign, these little details can add to the verisimilitude you’re trying to invoke. They’re even more useful if you’re planning a near-future apocalypse-in-progress campaign. For example, when the zombies take over, where’s the President of the United States hiding out? As the GM it’d be good to know, right? Read more
A one-shot session is a stand-alone game session not meant to be part of a larger campaign. It’s a low-risk way to give a new game a spin without the investment of a campaign. If the group doesn’t like the rules or the setting, it’s no big deal; you’ve learned more about your group’s preferences, which is a good thing. Read more
Solo: A Star Wars Story didn’t grab me at first, but as it progressed I found myself sucked into the story. It’s not my favorite Star Wars movie by a long shot, but I grade it a solid B.
As an Edge of the Empire veteran, I was struck by how much the movie felt like the first few sessions of an EotE campaign. If you ever thought about playing EotE but weren’t sure what it would be like, watch Solo. It demonstrates what EotE is all about.
Here are a few examples (don’t worry, I’ll avoid spoilers): Read more
In the software development world, the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) approach has gained mainstream acceptance because it works. MVP dictates that your first release of any software product should incorporate only those capabilities that are vital to the success of the product. By releasing only those key capabilities, you can validate your initial assumptions about what works for customers, get your product to market faster, and avoid wasting time building features nobody really wants.
Managing the development of software projects has made me acutely aware of the power of the MVP approach, and over time I have adapted its core principles to my tabletop roleplaying campaigns. I call this MVC, for minimum viable campaign. Read more
Ever since the iPad was first announced in the distant mists of time (2010), I’ve wanted an iPad with a screen large enough to easy read and annotate PDFs. In the intervening years the need has only grown, as I’ve shifted the majority of my RPG purchases from print to PDF. So when the 12.9″ iPad Pro was announced, I was eager to get one. It took a few months, but eventually I was able to make the purchase.