Category Archives: Props

What about the GameMastery Plot Twist Cards? A review… (And slight ramble!)

With such a convoluted title to this post, I better make some sense out of this!

What is this post? First and foremost a review of the GameMastery Plot Twist Cards… What are this cards I speak of? Well they are part of a series of GameMastery Cards produced by Paizo that illustrate treasure, items, NPCs, etc. While I was originally intrigued by the idea I was less than thrilled when I got the original cards. True having a card with the image of a certain piece of equipment or a magic item may be cool but I discovered that I forgot to hand them out or some players really did not care for them. Maybe I was not using them effectively. Paizo has gone on to produce decks themed to their different Adventure Paths and I imagine this must be a boon for those who play the Adventure Paths.

However the fine folk as Paizo then produced the Critical Hit Deck and the Critical Fumble Deck, both excellent products.  So after these two excellent products I was really interested in the Plot Twist Cards. Please indulge a little detour on this review… Let me tell you why.

Since beginning my, currently in hiatus, Pathfinder RPG campaign I wanted a different feel to it. I wanted to encourage swashbuckling actions and the feel of action/adventure movies. To accomplish this I implemented the use of Action Points (the old D20 variant that appeared in the 3rd ed version of Unearthed Arcana not the new Hero Point rules recently published for Pathfinder, I began the game long before the book where they appeared was published) and included Scratch Factory’s Swashbuckling Cards to allow the players to alter the game in significant ways.

Over the last couple of years I have embraced the idea of shared storytelling where players influence the flow of the game. I have not gone full indie, all narrative no GM, “dice be dammed we are telling a story” storytelling just yet, but enough to allow the players to impact the flow of the game in significant ways. I don’t use all the Swashbuckling Cards; I revised them all and removed two I believed might prove problematic.

I also allow players to draw two cards per session and use them, either for the effect described or as a free Action Point. As a GM I also draw two cards I can use during the game with any opponent or NPC or use as Action Points for the player’s opponents. If I feel a certain card would simply ruin the game I can refuse to accept it and immediately give the player a new card. I have only done this once in over a year of playing.

My players have embraced the cards and their inclusion has greatly enhanced the game. So along come the Plot Twist Cards, I saw the cards and snatched them right away. They come with their own rules and each card has an evocative title, a small illustration and various suggestions how the card may be used in game. They are excellent as even the seemingly negative cards have suggestions that may be beneficial or fun. The idea is that player can use the cards to help them or make things more challenging, depending on the story they create together with the GM.

I doubt my players would use any of the cards to make things harder for them. They may prove me wrong, but I don’t see it happening. Each card also has a rules bonus or penalty that can be used instead of the more esoteric opportunities presented by the card.

I think the open nature of the cards, the need to interpret and come up with possible applications for the cards will be the hardest aspect of the Plot Twist Cards. The Swashbuckling Cards I’m currently using, while open in many instances, have a specific effect that may need adjudicating, but it’s easily applicable. Rarely have we spent more than a minute or two clarifying a doubt on the card’s wording.

The Plot Point Cards require more interpretation and are much more open ended unless you simply use the penalty or bonuses printed on them, but if you limit yourself to this you are robbing yourself of the myriad opportunities the cards bring. They present a true opportunity to include the players in the creation of a collaborative story.

The rules that come along with the cards call for the GM to give two cards to the players at character creation, and an extra card when they go up a level. This seems too little for my current campaign, but that is the feel I am going for, larger than life adventure. The suggested pacing may work better for a traditional campaign.

Will my players like the Plot Twist Cards? That remains to be seen, I plan to show the cards to the players and discuss it with them. I am a little concerned with the open nature of the cards, I can see some players embracing it, other struggling, but I think that is part of the magic of the Plot Twist Cards. They encourage role-playing, to me that is a good thing!

Here is looking forward to the Condition Cards

Free Stuff Friday: A Death Certificate

It’s Friday and it’s time to give you some more free stuff!

This week’s Free Stuff is: A Death Certificate

I think we can all agree that when a player characters dies in an RPG it is sad. It’s sad for the game master and it’s sad for the player. So why not give them a little something for their death. Something like, oh I don’t know, a really cool death certificate! I don’t know about you but if I die in an RPG I sure would like to have a little something for my effort, and for the GM it’s official.

Here is your certificate of death. You are dead and no backing out of it buddy. Now go roll a new character!

On Ben’s RPG Pile website Ben wrote this stuff up: Remember all those silly paper awards you got in grade school (outstanding reader, math magician, etc)? Here’s a chance to use them in your own game but with some real flair and style. As Rob puts it, “Hey I respect your character, but man, he got jacked up!”

For DM prep, you simply have to fill in the gritty details on the template and print it out. If possible, stay classy and do it in color. Then take it to your next game session to award in a mini ceremony of sorts. If you’re feeling especially funny, don’t hesitate to get all munchkin on his ass as you hand it out.
So download the Death Certificate template today. Just don’t forget to thank Ben for the free stuff!

Trying something new…

I’ve never been particularly handy. I’ll write, talk in public, and I can tell a pretty good yarn (or so I’ve been told), but I’m not great with cars or home repair. I’ll hook up your computer or your home theater, but don’t ask me to fix the plumbing; I just don’t have the skill ranks!

Likewise my relation with the more “arts and crafts” aspects of our hobby has been more as an observer than a participant. I have friends who paint miniatures and do so with great skill, customize their creations and produce some beautiful work. I’ve been bitten by the bug before. In high school I ordered some plastic Warhammer Fantasy minis (can’t remember the set but I know it had dwarves and skavens) and some paints and tried my hand at it for the first time. I had no notion on how this was done and even though I understood the idea of priming the miniatures I overeager to paint and did not allow the primer to dry properly. Let’s just say that attempt was less than successful.

Later, in college, I tried my hand at it again and with some coaching from those aforementioned friends.  I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say when I showed the final product to a friend he asked me if I had just dunked the miniature in paint and set it out to dry. End of try two!

For years I did not play with miniatures so this was no big deal, but when D&D 3rd edition came around I realized I needed some miniatures to get the most out of the combat system. I first I used my old HeroQuest board game minis, some other unpainted minis I had purchased thought a life of gaming, even some Mage Knight miniatures. My prayers were answered when the D&D miniatures came out and I was bit by the “plastic crack” bug (that’s what my friends and I used to call it). By now I have enough miniatures to play for a long, long while.

I am happy to move around the miniatures in a hand drawn map, or some of the tiles or maps made by Paizo and Wizards of the Coast. I’ve spoken about this in previous posts, but as I’ve met more fellow gamers over this past year through the Puerto Rico Role Players Group I’ve been amazed at some of the wonderful dioramas and models they create. These are labors of love that greatly enhance the feel of a game. When we had a table at a local convention promoting the group the reaction to the models being displayed was awesome.

So with another convention coming up we wanted to display some of those wonderful creations. Sadly both of the talented artists will not be able to attend the con, but both agreed to send some of their work and one of them actually offered to help us make some new terrain to display. I was reluctant at first. I’ve never been particularly handy and I saw little possibility I might actually be good at it, but never one to shy away from a challenge I said, “Why not!” What’s the worse that could happen? I end up with an ugly looking piece of cardboard that’s supposed to be a fort!

Last Saturday my friend Sara and I met with Jaime and Mario. Both make excellent models and terrains. Mario makes incredible pieces using everything from printed out models, to household items and even animal carcasses (I kid you not! You should see his dragon skeleton made from a rat’s skeleton…). Jaime, well Jaime is in a league of his own, he is a model maker, make up artist and all around great guy (Mario is a great guy too, I just don’t like to tell him too often or he’ll get too full of himself).

Jaime was an excellent teacher, providing materials, sound advice and patience, sharing his craft with us and actually getting me to do what I considered impossible, work on terrain for a role-playing game that actually LOOKS like what it’s supposed to represent.

We decided to work on a river bed and Sara, Mario and I each worked on a piece of the river. We carved the riverbed in Foamular and then used the same material to create promontories, boulders and rocks. We used a heat gun to give the terrain some features. Sadly I had to leave early but Mario and Jaime put the base coat of paint on the pieces and we’ll get back together next week to finish the river using some silicone.

I am so thrilled about the experience. I actually managed to make some terrain and at the stage I left it, it didn’t look half bad. You can look at the picture here in the post. I also know it had a lot to do with the teacher. Jaime is incredibly talented and patient; communicates effortlessly and gives good solid advice and encouragement. Best of all I felt this was something I could do. I am psyched about finishing this project, displaying it at the convention and maybe tackling some other projects.

I feel like I gained a geek level over the weekend!