Telling Tales: What Is an Encounter?

A lot of the DMing I’ve been doing lately has been part of the D&D Encounters program. Traditionally, these mini-adventures have consisted of one fight each week, with ancillary roleplay surrounding the centerpiece combat. Lately, though, Wizards of the Coast has been mixing up their style; instead of focusing on a single fight for the week, they’ve allotted time for more character interaction and exploration of the game world. As a narrativist, I’m a big fan of this move. After all, while every fight may be an encounter, not every encounter has to be a fight.

Telling Tales: Backgrounds in D&D Next

Chuck and I talked about D&D Next in our little video-cast way back in July, but I haven’t said much about it since then. Chalk that up to lack of time rather than lack of interest; D&D Next has gripped my brain for a while now. I ran a few one-shot games with previous rules iterations, and now the new season of D&D Encounters has offered me the chance to run an ongoing Next game. Today I want to talk about an element of the new system that really feeds into my narrative gaming mindset: character backgrounds.

Telling Tales: Setting as Character

In the first volume of Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship begins its dangerous trek to Mordor. The first major obstacle is to cross the Misty Mountains; after much deliberation, the party decides to make for the pass of Caradhras. But the Redhorn is no ordinary mountain. From the moment they step above the foothills, the wind and snow oppose the group, the cold like needles or clawing hands tearing at them, pushing them back. In the end, Caradhras the Cruel defeats the Fellowship, and they must brave the dark road through Moria.

Telling Tales: Tips for the Watcher

I’ve already made plain my love of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. From the moment I first got into the playtest, I’ve wanted to play it as much as possible. Unfortunately for my heroic ambitions, the task of running a game usually falls to me. When I sat down to work out a couple of games, though, I ran into some unexpected hurdles. Marvel is not your standard RPG, and being a Watcher is not like running a game of D&D. Hoping to better my understanding of the task, I took the Internet in search of tips for a new Watcher; I found almost nothing. So once again the job is mine! If you’ve gotten your friends all excited about the Marvel RPG only to find yourself in the driver’s seat, here are some tips to help you along.

Telling Tales: Player Agency

In my article about keeping your villains alive, I mentioned that it’s a bad idea to rob your players of agency. But what the heck does “player agency” even mean? Well, it’s the heart and soul of roleplaying, for starters. It’s the fuel that drives your stories, and one of the chief reasons why anyone gets into this hobby in the first place. Player agency means only this: your players have choices to make, and those choices matter. And that means everything.

Telling Tales: Marvel Heroic Roleplay

Last time on Telling Tales, I mentioned that I was writing up a one-shot adventure to run for the Marvel RPG (the new one, not the old TSR one). This week, I’m going to use the two demo sessions I ran as examples of good story rising from a brilliant rules system. The Marvel game isn’t like a standard supers RPG, with endless tables and point values for every imaginable super power. Instead, it lays out the most essential traits of the most iconic heroes, and gives the players every reason to act in ways that feel natural to that character. That wonderful union of system and story is what I’d like to talk about today, because it’s a rare find in an RPG.

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