Intro – Know the rules, so that you can break them properly

Welcome to my new blog! I have lurked forums all over the 4e world as Popesixtus, and now I would like to throw my hat into the discussion and contribute some ideas. In the spirit of Mike Shea’s excellent Sly Flourish blog, I would like to contribute real, crunchy, gritty, and ultimately usable tools and advice to improve every GM’s game.

To that end, I hope to put together some useful indexes, maps, and charts for everyone throughout 2012, especially for 4e but hopefully for any game. My first post here is called “When can I start petrifying my players?”, which is a chart that maps out when, where, how often, and at what levels the various monsters of 4e can start handing out some nasty status effects for all players to enjoy (heh heh). I am also working on indexes that list possible traps, curses, diseases, terrain features, environmental effects, and all of the supplemental stuff that makes encounters more than just PCs slugging it out with monsters. Community input will be welcome and encouraged! I also have some transcripts of epic level combats that will hopefully help demystify and excite nervous DMs who are staring at Epic level and cringing. So, lots of ideas. Let’s see what sticks.

Why am I doing this? Because I believe that the best GMs have active imaginations, but are also adept at taking what is in their heads and reproducing them in interactive ways at the table. I know some players and GMs think of “crunch” and “fluff” as opposites, but I think that they can co-exist and even inspire one another. When I want to make an encounter more awesome, or when I am simply stuck for ideas, I love looking at handy-dandy charts that spell out game elements, or resources that give specific examples of traps, puzzles, and other things that I can simply pluck out and drop in anywhere in the dungeon.

In addition, I truly feel that the best GMs play within the rules of the game, but strategically break those rules when they want to accomplish something fun. Staying totally within the rules might bog down a game and stifle creativity, but making up rules without any base can leave players frustrated because, after all, they can’t read the GM’s mind. A halfling rogue busily loads up a catapult full of stones, following all the rules of the statblock, but then she gets the idea to launch herself! The best DMs, in the spirit of “yes and”, work within the statblock and are able to make a provisional exception for halflings on the fly, so to speak.

So that’s my project. We’ll see how it goes. I’d like to send many, many profound thanks to the intrepid podcasters at 4geeks4e for their Dec. 14th podcast that inspired my first project and got me rolling. I also very much appreciate the good folks who put together 4eblogs for being my gateway into the gaming community, particularly great sites like Critical Hits, Dungeons Master, and The Id DM. I’d also like to thank Mike Shea for helping me get this started – please visit both his great site and his sponsor! I hope everyone enjoys.

-Pope

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