Mike's Autojournal 2011-04-10
On 3 April 2011 I had the chance to discuss independent publishing at the SynDCon gaming convention in Maryland. It was co-hosted with Matt James of Loremaster, Dave "the Game" Chalker of Critical Hits, Michael Surbrook and special guest publisher, Hal Mangold from Green Ronin.
You can download the Getting Published in Gaming 45 meg mp3 audio recording here.
We talked about a number of things that interest me when it comes to independent publishing, working with small companies, and writing for large companies in this recording. Topics included getting started in self publishing, how to market your stuff yourself, why the slush pile is for saps, how to handle criticism, the importance of acting like a professional, and how to get the idea flywheel spinning.
Here are some links to things we discussed:
Dave Chalker‘s “Out” is one of the best advanced DMing techniques you can pick up. It keeps encounters unique and interesting, keeps your game focused on your story, and keeps your battles short and tidy. If you haven’t yet learned about the out, start with Dave Chalker’s The Combat Out and my previous article, Three Examples to End a Battle Early. Sometimes, however, you might accidently end a battle TOO early. Either your players trigger your out sooner than you expected or you gave them the answer too early. Today we’ll look at a few ways to avoid triggering an Out too early.
Know when to reveal the out
A good “out” depends on more than just a mechanic for ending a battle early. It also depends on how and when you reveal it to your players. Reveal it too late and it might not matter, the battle is already over. Reveal it too early and your big battle might end before it ever really began. When you’re designing the out, pay careful attention to when you reveal it.
Example: The mummy lord
In a battle I ran recently, I had a mummy lord and his four spectral servants. Time was running late, this was the third battle of the night and we had about 45 minutes before I wanted to finish up the game. Within the first couple of turns, after asking for a religion check, I revealed that the spectral servants were directly tied to the negative energy of the mummy. Destroy the mummy and you destroy the spectral servants. It’s not a bad out if it is a little typical.
Unfortunately, I had given it away too early. The party completely ignored the spectral servants and made a mad rush for the mummy. Within a round and a half, he was defeated along with his spectral servants. The battle was over in the first 20 minutes.
This battle would have worked far better if I revealed this only after the first two full rounds, when the party is already mixed up and engaging the spectral servants and getting over to the mummy isn’t as easy as it was in the beginning. Knowing when to reveal my out would have made this battle excellent.
Plan your rounds
As shown in the mummy lord example, it is important to know how your rounds might play out when deciding the right time to reveal the out. Statistics have shown that most of the action takes place in the first couple of rounds. For that reason, it is probably best to reveal your out at the end of the second or or third round of combat. At this point, monster effectiveness goes down every round as more and more of them are killed and the initial interest of your players begins to wane. Figure out the best time in each combat to reveal an out and maximize the interest of your players.
Build in flexibility
You don’t know how your battles are going to play out. For this reason, its important to build some flexibility into your outs. Give yourself the room to change them during the game when you’re able to determine the best time to bring it into play. Also, give yourself the freedom to determine what your “out” really does. Maybe it wipes the battle clean or maybe it just makes monsters easier to hit. Design them so you can change them at the table.
Example: The vampire’s obelisk
In my recent PAX East DM Challenge adventure, Gravemyst, I had a battle against a big pile of vampires, two skeletal tomb guardians, and a dark obelisk. The obelisk itself was the main component for the out in this battle. After some skill checks to identify that the obelisk was the primary source of evil in the chamber, the players could either choose to run more skill checks or complete a puzzle. Either way and they trigger the “out”. The cool bit is that I never really defined what it does when its disabled. If its disabled early, it might only destroy the skeletal tomb guardians. If it is triggered late, maybe it kills every remaining creature on the board. Right in the middle and maybe it kills the tomb guardians and bloodies everyone else. I got to choose what it did depending on when they triggered it.
You can take a look at the “outs” designed into all three of the battles in this adventure.
Balancing time and emotions
At a PAX East panel on house rules, Phil Menard and Quinn Murphy mentioned that long battles aren’t a matter of time but of interest. If you’re group is into it, a long battle might be just fine. Your job as a DM is to keep the pace of battle where it fits bests with the interests of the players and your own interests. Designing your battles with the flexibility to fit the mood of the players is one of the greatest techniques you can pick up as a dungeon master.
If you liked this article, take a look at Sly Flourish’s Dungeon Master Tips and Sly Flourish&’s Running Epic Tier D&D Games. For some great books and tools for encounter design, check out the Dungeon Master’s Kit, the Deluxe Dungeon Master’s Screen, the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2, or use this link to buy anything from Amazon. Good maps include some excellent options for building “outs”. Take a look at the Gamemastery flip maps at Troll and Toad, an official Sly Flourish sponsor.
Twitter / mshea
- mshea: Wow, Sons of Anarchy, one of my favorite current shows, is on Netflix Instant!
- mshea: Had a great seafood lunch with @RosaMoonshadow and the inlaws. Yum!
- mshea: @geeksdreamgirl Don't worry, you sound great! =D Hope you feel better.
- mshea: RT @syn: Best 404 ever. http://t.co/rITkcWa
- mshea: RT @CobraCommander: Remember dear federal workers of the United States, when your country abandons you, Cobra will not. Join me!
- mshea: Lots of recording tonight. Two 5 minute segments for @squach on the Tome Show and an hour with @davethegame on "The Out".
- mshea: RT @eee_c: If you're using *any* version of Internet Explorer, I'm coding/styling under the assumption that you just don't give a shit.
- mshea: RT @egreco: OCDnD now in session. http://t.co/QdXtyaH
- mshea: @JaredvonHindman I remember how much fun my father used to make of Golan Globus. They did make every horrible movie it seemed.
- mshea: RT @chattydm: Final get off the netz Score: 75-76 for the other team. Top Score: 6 by @mshea. Winner is (clatter clatter) @KevinKulp!
- mshea: @DaveTheGame Yeah, @rosamoonshadow and I both use 1password for PC, Mac, 2x iPhones and an iPad. Expensive but very slick.
- mshea: I think I'm totally done with ties. I'm just going to do a nice sport coat with a shirt for formality.
- mshea: RT @NotGodinREPOSTs: Perfect vs. interesting http://ff.im/-AzBQk
- mshea: @chattydm Point!
- mshea: @JaredvonHindman the immortal dies without a quickening. If another mortal is close, they receive it even though they didn't do the deed.
- mshea: RT @gtdguy: Plans are what you wind up doing, and budgets are what you wind up spending. Relax.
- mshea: Stage 4 of Jim Collins's "How the Mighty Fall", Grasping for Salvation: Gamestop's tablet: http://j.mp/eqOyV8
- mshea: Tim Sweeney discusses the problem of developing games for multiple phone platforms: http://j.mp/ghKzfs
- mshea: @chattydm That's point 5 for me! Good thing I'm not busy today.
- mshea: Getting Published in Gaming Panel Recording http://bit.ly/f9jiN7
- mshea: Work as play: http://j.mp/e5EHbU
- mshea: @chattydm Do I get another point? Is it a point per tweet? If so, that's 3 more points for me!
- mshea: RT @geeksdreamgirl: New Article: No Kids, Please! Online Dating for the Childfree http://j.mp/eyvisp
- mshea: I wonder how much code now gets written to the Social Network soundtrack. "In Motion" sounds like coding drums on a slave ship.
- mshea: @chattydm Point! I get a point!
- mshea: @newbiedm what is the best Dragon Age character sheet you have seen?
- mshea: @Wizards_DnD Daggerdale looks awesome. When will it be released?
- mshea: Watching the @oatmeal SXSW presentation: http://j.mp/eYdXzf
- mshea: Big News is so screwed. NYT pays $40 to $50 million for a paywall doomed to fail: http://j.mp/e6TaEC
- mshea: @AtomicOvermind Awesome. Thank you. And thank you for your insights yesterday!
- mshea: @AtomicOvermind what was the podcast on creativity you mentioned at yesterday's Getting Published in Gaming talk?
- mshea: @DaveTheGame Yeah, I just got back into DA2. It's fun in a small story sort of way. I don't always want big epic things.
- mshea: RT @mikelmask: Now I finally understand D&D alignment, http://mightygodking.com/index.php/category/dd-explains-everything/ .
- mshea: RT @BoingBoing: This "Childless By Choice" post generated a lively comment thread on why some choose to have kids, others don't. http:// ...
- mshea: @chattydm Isn't this within your "I won't be twittering" time? Do I get another point?
- mshea: @geeksdreamgirl Childfree by choice here.
- mshea: 2% Apple bookstore which is a dud. I never bothered to put Epic tier on it. Nothing either from Barnes and Noble. Kindle is dominating.
- mshea: Worked up numbers on ebook sales through March. 30-40% kindle, 10% hardcopy, 45-60% PDF through Paypal.
- mshea: @avecvoix: Gee, Borders. Bitter much? http://t.co/F2kywAI
Twitter / SlyFlourish
- SlyFlourish: My attempt to better define #dnd skill challenges: http://t.co/nST6aGF
- SlyFlourish: @gamefiend Yeah, I don't think I'm going to break the model, just sort of wrap it in a more gamey template. Ideas to come...
- SlyFlourish: Zombie dice is a simple dice game that has degrees of risk and decisions to stop or keep going. I want that in #dnd skill challenges.
- SlyFlourish: In my opinion, one of the problem with #dnd skill challenges is that they aren't gamey enough. You roll some 20s against set DCs. Boring.
- SlyFlourish: How can we make #dnd skill challenges more like the fun of Zombie Dice?
- SlyFlourish: #dnd tip from #pax houserules seminar - http://j.mp/dQm2t8: Don't make house rules in a vacuum. Discuss and design with your players.
- SlyFlourish: RT @pedr: @SlyFlourish Switching role class will be in Heroes of the Feywild. Rodney T gives some info on a podcast from a couple of mon ...
- SlyFlourish: @JaredvonHindman I was hoping to see a fighter that could switch to warlord as a daily power.
- SlyFlourish: @jaredvonhindman @gamefiend @bartoneus I thought I heard there was a class that could actually switch roles as a daily power or something.
- SlyFlourish: @JaredvonHindman @gamefiend @bartoneus is there a class that can switch roles? I thought I heard there was one.
- SlyFlourish: RT @ArcaneSpringbrd: Great quote from @slyflourish: "Take pride in having a short turn."
- SlyFlourish: In case you missed it, "Getting Published in Gaming": http://bit.ly/hBsSRz
- SlyFlourish: #dnd tip from #pax houserules seminar - http://j.mp/dQm2t8: When you say combat is too long, ask yourself what you're really looking for.
- SlyFlourish: @medriza @bartoneus My players and I enjoy browsing through the books to get ideas and then dive in with the CB when we're ready to build.
- SlyFlourish: @DaveTheGame Right, I'll reserve judgement on Heroes of Shadow but more Essentials-like is good in my book.
- SlyFlourish: RT @RosaMoonshadow: Given the options that are already out there I don't mind if Shadows is more Essentials like. Some folks (not me) li ...
- SlyFlourish: @chattydm Point!
- SlyFlourish: RT @direflail: Read @slyflourish's DM Tips book in its entirety last night. Going to soak up a bunch of @gamefiend's Worldbreakers serie ...
- SlyFlourish: #dnd tip: Be like Perkins: Think of a campaign as a TV season, create an episode guide, write one-line future episode summaries.
- SlyFlourish: I'm going to run a cool Shadowfell paragon campaign based on Heroes of Shadow http://j.mp/eDmIan and Gloomwrought http://j.mp/hBPfeN #dnd
- SlyFlourish: Just ordered Heroes of Shadow after reading the CH review by @Bartoneus: http://j.mp/h24TUL
- SlyFlourish: .@Gretyl this was in my Dark Sun campaign: http://t.co/TH1IvR8
- SlyFlourish: Ran a much more relaxed two encounter game tonight. Almost killed them with Rot Grubs. #DnD
- SlyFlourish: @BrainClouds Very helpful. Thank you!
- SlyFlourish: @BrainClouds How does one become a publisher on @DriveThruRPG?
- SlyFlourish: #dnd tip: Follow @rjschwalb's ruling guideline: if it smells like poop, it is probably poop: http://bit.ly/fF1N2Y
- SlyFlourish: @djinniman They're underpowered. Stick to the Monster Vault, MM3, Demonomicon, or Dark Sun Creature Catalog.
- SlyFlourish: @SarahDarkmagic @matt_james_rpg @DaveTheGame It was really really fun to do.
- SlyFlourish: @DaveTheGame Done! Sorry about that, @AtomicOvermind!
- SlyFlourish: Since Matt posted it, so will I. Getting Published in Gaming Panel with @davethegame @matt_james_rpg and I: http://j.mp/fcBkxk
- SlyFlourish: RT @matt_james_rpg: Getting Published Seminar from @synDCon Convention (4/2011) http://t.co/FE3I5Xy #dnd #rpg
- SlyFlourish: While players often misread in their favor, they never forget a status effect they placed on a monster so I never bother to track them. #dnd
- SlyFlourish: Check out this inexpensive DIY #dnd 3d terrain idea from @bandofmisfits : http://j.mp/fY0Ofp
- SlyFlourish: #dnd tip: A mix of Watchmen, Tron Legacy, 300, and the Social Network soundtracks makes for a great instrumental gaming playlist.
- SlyFlourish: .@JaredvonHindman I see the exact same thing. Players are more likely to read it wrong in their favor than against it. Police thy neighbor.
- SlyFlourish: RT @JaredvonHindman: Final Follow-up: Biggest cheating hurdle at our table isn't Dice, but character sheet/Powers misinterpretation, if ...
- SlyFlourish: @Destrin That was the biggest one but not the only one. Anything granting free at will attacks and anything with extended crit ranges hurts.
- SlyFlourish: @Destrin The big one was warlord abilities that granted free attacks on crits and extended crit ranges that let them crit all the time.
- SlyFlourish: @Paulskemp Can't say, no rulebook here either.
- SlyFlourish: RT @rjschwalb: Today's Lost Monster is the Mercane: http://bit.ly/hoETIu
- SlyFlourish: #dnd tip: don't reveal your "out" too early. Give your players a chance to discover how a battle works before revealing the victory states.
- SlyFlourish: Trying out some Gaming Paper and the Gaming Paper adventure maps. http://j.mp/UCPcF #dnd
- SlyFlourish: #dnd SlyFlourish: Avoiding the Early Out http://goo.gl/fb/pxCXP
- SlyFlourish: RT @synDCon: That's @Luddite_Vic of course. :-) RT @SlyFlourish: @synDCon Thank you @ludditevic and @gsllc, it was awesome.
- SlyFlourish: @synDCon Thank you @ludditevic and @gsllc, it was awesome.
- SlyFlourish: @christulach @wotc_rodney I like the red dragon chilling in the corner.
- SlyFlourish: Level 1 my ass. http://t.co/RiyT30T
- SlyFlourish: RT @SnarlsAtFleas: Thanks @SlyFlourish for pimped Orcus, but even God of Death was defeated, thanks to warlock pulling out the shard. Bu ...
- SlyFlourish: @SnarlsAtFleas very cool. Glad someone else ran it. Too easy?
- SlyFlourish: RT @synDCon: Getting Published in Gaming seminar with @SlyFlourish, @matt_james_rpg, and @DaveTheGame. #RPG #DnD http://twitpic.com/4glz34
- SlyFlourish: Playing #dnd with the awesome @matt_james_rpg DMing in the last day of SynDCon. http://t.co/jNMXo1g
- SlyFlourish: #dnd Tip: Need a powerhouse brute to threaten your epic tier PCs?, check out @rjschwalb's excellent Adamantine Golem: http://bit.ly/hbgEqc
Top Stories - Google News
Dow Jones Industrial Average: Dow Jones Industrial Average down 76.33 from 12414.87 at 9:51am to 12338.54 at 2:51pm NY time, down 70.95 since today's opening.
Vienna, Virginia Weather : 48F FOG/MIST