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Sessions to Session Consistency

As many of you may be aware, I recently been running quite a few Savage World Sessions via Roll20.net. Roll20 has limitations, but for the most part is close enough for me to run some sessions on it. One thing that has come up from playing via Roll20.net is what I'm going to call "Sessions to Session Consistency".

First off what is Sessions to Session Consistency? I like to think of it as things remain the same from the end of the session to the start of the next session. Players are the same, characters are the same, the positions of things remain the same. Something that I find normally can't really be accomplished in the long run.

After all, we all have had sessions where players couldn't make it that week, or new players have been added. When I was younger, this was usually didn't happen much. As kids, we normally didn't have a lot fighting for our time. As an adult, I find that such things do tend to happen. People have to work when a game session was scheduled, they take vacations or trips, they have to do 101 other things during that time, and the list goes on.

All of that tends to make games session not be as consistent. Which leads to the question of what to do about it? Or if you should even bother to anything about it?

I tend to think that while one should try to do something about it, I don't find that it should eat up a bunch to time worrying about it. After all, it is just a game to have fun with. In face to face games, I know I tend try to fit the adventure in a single session. That way no matter which players show up or not, there doesn't need to be an explanation of where players came from or went to. In my roll20 games, I don't even bother with that, since my sessions are 2 hours in length and adventures tend to last 3 or 4 sessions. I just sort of let the players come and go as needed. I don't even bother to really explain it anymore. I really only worry about it if a player was required for some task or had a vital item needed for the adventure. For the most part, the players I've been playing with haven't seemed to mind it at all.

So what about you? Do you worry about having Sessions to Session Consistency? If so, what do you do about it? If not, why not? I look forward to hearing your replies.

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Obvious Equipment Carry

This is just my crazy thought for the day, please ignore at your leisure. I know I've covered some of pet peeves about carrying equipment in many Role-Playing Games. But this is more of genre thing this time. Having played a few modern day games, it seems like most people (GM included) seem to think that they can carry just about anything they want. I should point that I'm as guilty of this sort of thing as anyone.

And it's not the weight that's an issue where. I'm going to keep that out the picture this time. What I'm talking about this time is how players like to things that would normally draw attention to themselves. "Why yes, I do carry this shotgun every place I go!" Of course depending on the game, this may or may not be a problem. In a modern day spy game, this could be an issue. After all they are normally more sneaky. This of course goes both ways, as a GM the NPCs can't be carrying major hardware all the time. I guess it amounts to a sort of arms race of sorts. If a GM allows the players to very obvious equipment without issue then the NPCs should do the same no?

I guess the real question here is in games where it makes sense, do we try to enforce what amounts to equipment restrictions. And if we have these restrictions, what are penalties if those restrictions are violated?

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What Color is that Potion?

One of the great things about being sort of a "grognard" in Role-Playing Games is the amount of old stuff you have around the house. The other day, I was flipping through the old AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide (DMG). I came to the appendix section where they have tables to help randomly determine what potions look like. This of course got me to thinking.

You may ask, "Thinking what"? Well, I was thinking do people bother to describe potions any more? Have things like potions become so common and bland that we no longer bother to describe them? Should we be describing them?

I guess the best place to start is why I always expected them to be described by the DM in the early days. Back in early days of D&D, potions were not easily identified. As a matter of fact, there were many times the only way you would know what a potion did was actually drink it. Right or wrong that was the way things were back then. I think as players we sort of wanted a clue as to what function the potion could have, which meant we wanted it described to us. Which is where the tables in the old AD&D DMG comes in. As a matter of fact, I know some DMs that took this to the logical progression of having a color, taste, & smell matrix, where each potion type had a slot on the matrix. That way the players could write such info down when they discovered what a potion did and if they ran across said potion again, they would know what it did. Personally, I never went that far.

Over time, I think various systems updates have made it easier to identify magic items and potions. I'm not going to judge the merits of that. It just made things different. I think this is where many of started to stop describing something as basic as potion. Move forward and finally, we are at the point where potions are pretty much just standard equipment to be bought and sold (as well as most magic items). It was at this point that we generally stopped bothering. After all, you don't really bother to describe an arrow or sack do you?

I guess the questions I'd like to ask the reader are the following. Do you think we lost something by not generally describing potions? Do you or your DM bother to describe potions? I know my answers are yes and sadly no respectively. I think this is something to work on the next time I run D&D (or Pathfinder).

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It's a Weight Thing

In a recent blog post at Tenkar’s Tavern, I was reminded of an old Dragon article about How many coins in a coffer. When I first read the article back in the 80’s, it sort of blew my young little mind. Funny thing is that re-reading it today, it still sort of blows my mind. It was however Tenkar’s calculation of 20x20 room filled one foot deep with copper pieces that really got me to think about this article. By his calculations the weight would have been something like 138 tons.

That of course got me thinking,on the podcast we have talked about encumberance. If memory serves most of us didn’t really use any of the encumberance rules in question. Of course one side effect of this is that we don’t keep track of how much money we are carrying. It could be 1 gold piece to 30,000 gold pieces and we sort of forget about it. One has to wonder, if even if we generally ignore encumberence, should we ignore the issues of coins as well?

I think most people sort of just view the coins that they have on their character sheet sort of like a bank account balance. It’s the mathematical amount but not how it’s physically allocated. So if a character had say 5000 gold pieces, that could be gold pieces, gems, platinum pieces, or anything else. Even if they do consider it, they typically will convert the monetary amounts as needed without thinking about how difficult it might be to actually do. It’s like we expect people to always be able to make change or something. The item costs a silver piece, you give the poor broke farmer one platinum piece and he gives you change back, now back to the adventure.

Do we lose out by not considering the weight of coins? At the very least, should we consider the amount? Is that the answer, just allow the characters to carry only so many coins? Funny thing is that early encumbrance systems would have things listed in coins as weight. Of course back then 10 coins equaled a pound. Which is why Tenkar’s room weights 138 tons. In most modern versions of D&D, it is now 50 coins to a pound, which would still put Tenkar’s room a little over 27 tons. So, should we either force ourselves to use the encumbrance system or just have a simple coin amount that people can carry? If we used used an amount and allowed 500 coins, that would be 10 pounds. If we allowed 2000 coins that would be 40 pounds.

Honestly, I don’t know which would be best. I know people are just trying to avoid the logistical stuff while playing a game for fun. I guess in the end, I wonder if we are robbing ourselves of story if we don’t deal with the weight of coins in some fashion (I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to the coin issue). What are your thoughts?

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Number of Players at the Table

Yesterday, I was flipping through on old book of mine, Gary Gygax's Role-Playing Mastery. In one section, he had a little to say about the maximum number players that a Game Master can handle while maintaining a good game. He set that number to three or four players.

What's interesting is that is the number of positions in the old standard party. You know the one where there is a fighter, a magic-user (wizard), cleric, and thief (rouge). It really sort of makes me wonder if that number was sort of influenced by that concept in some way. Of course it could have been the reverse as well. Honestly, I'm not sure which came first, I'm just sure that there is some sort of link between the two concepts.

In the same area, talked about using a Game Master's assistant. Someone who could handle some of the GM administrative work. Gygax, basically suggested that with such an assistant a GM could handle eight players without make his game suffer. Of course, I'm not sure anyone would want to be an assistant. Much like the working world, assistants seem to get none of the glory or respect that the person they give assistance to gets. As GM, I'm not sure if I'm down with someone not really playing and not really the GM. But that's my opinion.

Still, what is maximum number of players that can be handled at the table without assistance? I've always thought that six was my personal number. Any more than six and you have no idea what the hell is even going on. And even if you do, you will find that a few players will monopolize you time. Of course I guess the same could be said about any number of players. I do now that no matter what, there is a limit of some sort. Once a long time ago, I played in a group with about ten to twelve people. That's right ten to twelve people. The adventure involved some sort of war and we were in some sort of castle siege. Since there were so many players, the poor GM couldn't help but focus on a few people at time. This meant there were long stretches with nothing to do. We actually started to do other things while we waited for our turn. This became a huge disconnect for us. Since we were not paying attention, we sometime had no idea what exactly was going on. I dare say that game ended poorly. Eventually, I think group broke into two groups, which is what sort of needed to happen in the first place.

So what is the maximum number of players you can handle as a GM? What are your thoughts on a GM Assistant? Have you ever used a GM assistant? Finally, what is the largest group he have ever played with and how successful was it?

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