BoardGameGeek News | BoardGameGeek

  • We Finally Did It....We Have a Podcast!

    by Candice Harris

    On September 30, 2022, BoardGameGeek officially joined — well, re-joined — the board game podcast club with an all-new BoardGameGeek podcast, featuring fortnightly casual conversations with passionate gamers who geek out about board games, the mechanisms behind them, and the people who create them. I'll host the BoardGameGeek podcast with a variety of folks from the BGG Team, in addition to other special guest board game enthusiasts and personalities.

    The BoardGameGeek podcast is currently available on Spotify and Buzzsprout, and will be rolled out to all major podcast services within a week, so be sure to subscribe and check out new episodes every other Friday. The main topic of each episode will vary between game reviews, convention coverage, and discussions on different game mechanisms, themes, designers, artists, and types of games.

    In episode 1, BoardGameGeek owner Scott Alden (a.k.a., Aldie) and I discuss what we've been playing recently, what SPIEL is all about, and the SPIEL '22 releases we're most excited about.

    Read more »
  • Designer Diary: Peak Oil Profiteer – Revealed†

    by Heiko Günther

    Most readers will probably remember how, a few years ago, a new game smashed all the records and constantly dominated the news*. Peak Oil had hit the scene like the landslide of boardgaming goodness that it is. It's not necessary to repeat any of that crazy hype here as you probably know all about it anyway, and really, we don't have nearly enough space.

    In light of this remarkable monument to boardgaming history, an idea was born: What if there were an additional installment in this epic boardgame series? Another piece in the legendary Peak Oil saga? Was there any easier way to amass further fame and riches? (Rhetorical question: Nothing could be easier. Trust us.) And who better to design this new game than the original designers (us). Not surprising, therefore, that our greedy, Spaniard publishing team known as 2Tomatoes Games, otherwise a bit slow on the uptake, quickly latched onto this plan.

    Thus, in the dark and stormy fall days of 2018 in the quaint German town of Essen, the 2Tomatoes approached us with a simple question: Can this be done? Is recreating such genius even possible? Immediately our brains set to work on this tricky task, and quickly, a conclusion formed: Yes, this is possible. So we did it.** And that is the story of how this game was made, how this shining beacon of hope in a sea of dross came to be.

    The first priority was obvious. We needed a hex grid to move armies, nukular tanks, and little plastic pieces about on. Next, what should this game be about? "War" could work — but let's cut this introduction, already three paragraphs long, mainly silly, and without really a lot of content (very sorry about that), a bit short. The actual designers' diary begins below. Sorry for any inconveniences.

    The guy on the left (not Travolta) also played in a lot of crappy movies
    In the days before the oceans drank Atlantis...aargh. Sorry. Let's try again.

    In case you have no idea about the original Peak Oil (which, contrary to above claims, might have been less of a smash hit), in that game, the players, representing big oil companies, drill for oil, ship oil, hire agents, and do various other things in various countries all over the world. However, it's never really spelled out what happens in detail when you take such action. This is, of course, nothing unusual for a board game at this level of abstraction, but we always felt that there were interesting stories to explore.

    As a second aspect, somewhere along the many roads the development of Peak Oil took, it had been possible to trade in arms, to stabilize and destabilize countries. These things to us seem interesting, relevant, and wildly underrepresented in board games.

    First, we tried to design a mini-game that could integrate with the original Peak Oil to play out the actions mentioned above, with the results carrying over back into the main game. Obviously and not surprisingly, this didn't really work out too well. It took away from Peak Oil's main focus, bloated the gameplay to unholy lengths, and generally was not really fun. So, after some to and fro, we settled on creating an entirely new game that only tied back to Peak Oil's theme, but not its mechanisms.

    One of the early prototypes
    Fortunately, our corporate overlords — the 2Tomatoes — didn't demand any specific design choices***, as long as there was a clear connection to Peak Oil. For this new game, we decided to zoom in on a country**** "affected" by the international oil trade and to play out the consequences of "Big Oil" taking an interest in the oil reserves there.

    A few design choices didn't change. We were sure from the start that there would be armies moving over the map. The players — representing amoral Big Oil corporations — wouldn't have complete control over one faction each, but would be able to influence all factions and their armies to varying degrees over the course of the game. Each of the factions would get a number of leaders, which the players could bribe and take control of to steer the factions, increasing the corruption in the process. We wanted the game end to be triggered by the collapse of the country, that is, by achieving maximum corruption. To win, only your profit would count, with utter disregard of how you achieved it or what you did to the country to do so. Also, the smallest unit of money needed to be one million.

    You want one of these
    Other aspects changed considerably between the various versions. Tobias' harebrained idea of a hex-based map was abandoned as quickly as possible — wait: Writing this sentence and discussing it, we just made up a really cool movement system that might actually work better than the one used in the published game, one that would use a hex-map and that requires only another five or six custom dice to work. Okay, but on the upside, it would give each of the three armies their own, very unique movement profile — which, admittedly, would be nice, but not really make the game any better. Okay. Let's move on. So. All in all, the map got quite a heap of tweaks and adjustments, even after the switch away from hexes.

    The pricing mechanism was introduced relatively early on, getting a few improvements and add-ons along the way. For a long time during development, influence over and corruption of leaders had a very strong narrative aspect to it, with little stories developing around all of them: where they would hang out, how you could blackmail (sorry, influence) them, and generally giving a very nice Junta vibe. Unfortunately, while absolutely charming, it was very clunky and fiddly to handle in practice, with a heap of cards and bookkeeping that we did not really care for a lot, so we removed all of it.

    Of course, this rather broad description of the design process leaves out a huge number of tiny adjustments††. Game design, in practice, is an iterative process: implement a small change, play a number of test games, evaluate the results, and address the next tiny adjustment. Over and over. This seems like a good place to thank all of the people who had to play endless repeats of marginally different versions of Peak Oil: Profiteer with us. (You know who you are, and you have been paid well to keep shut, so better.)

    Spot the difference
    So, when after a few months of refining, we approached our publishers (you might remember them from above, the 2Tomatoes) with our "finished" game, we were quite confident that they would love it. And, of course, the first thing they asked was: Right. Does it play solo?. Hm. Yeah. That had been their only design specification, which we had conveniently "forgotten". The game we had designed was an awesome, highly interactive piece of mayhem, but it didn't have a solo mode, so we added a really good one — but why bore you with details?

    Each of you, go out there and buy your own copy*†, so you can play it in the quietness of your peaceful abode by the lake, where none of your loud and meddlesome "friends" will interfere with your well-laid plans of how exactly to drive this poor country into total ruin and despair.†††† Enjoy!

    Heiko Günther and Tobias Gohrbandt

    Drain the oil before corruption ruins these lands
    Written by Tobias and Heiko together, or rather against each other. This probably did not become clear from the above, we are indeed a bit proud of this game.

    † One of the few advantages (apart from the stellar pay, of course) of working for such a big corporate publisher is the total lack of any quality management. "You there, here is a big wad of money, write a designers' diary for your game, Rockodrommo, was it? Nah, just send it directly to print, no need for US to read it." Harhar. Here you go:
    * Undeservedly eclipsing many other, far better games, also hitting the market in 2018: Just One, CuBirds, Tokyo Highway, First Contact, and Decrypto
    ** Please imagine this read in the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
    *** At least that was what we thought then...
    **** Let's not try to narrow the location any further, shall we?
    †† We could, of course, bore you with countless made-up anecdotes from the design process, bombard you with all the iterations and changes the game went through, explain why one of the consultants wears this really silly beanie, iterate all the nonsense we came up with, and luckily (for you), removed again, and and and, but why?
    *† Or, if you are so inclined, download the free PnP and craft that.
    †††Reading footnotes that are not referenced from anywhere in the text, are we? Terry Pratchett fan, eh? Who reads designer diaries anyway, and while we are at it, the really small print at the bottom, does anybody read that?
    †††† Em, yeah, this sounds like the solo mode is easy to beat or lets you play out your "well-laid plans" undisturbed. This does not apply. Maybe your friends are easier to beat after all. Why not invite them to your cool hut by the lake, to play against you? Read more »
    - Newest Items

  • Hurricane Ian relief bundle [BUNDLE]
    Publisher: Point of Insanity Game Studio
    This special bundle product contains the following titles.

    All profit from the sale of this bundle will be donated to the Red Cross to assist with their efforts to aid the victims of Hurrican Ian.

    169624-thumb140.jpg Afterpeak Oceania
    Regular price: 0
    Bundle price:
     Watermarked PDF
    Are you looking for a relaxing trip to a tropical paradise? Looking forward to kicking back on a beautiful white sand beach with a cool beverage under a palm tree? Well, too bad because you won't find that here! Welcome to the Pacific Ocean, Afterpeak style. Pirates roam the seas and horrible creatures lurk in the ocean depths. Even the sight of land doesn’t promise safety, for you never know when you’ll stumble upon a stronghold of the Servants of Chaos, a pirate base, or an island inhabited by cannibals eager to invite you to dinner! Afterpeak Atlas: Oceania presents several of the islands and nations on the Pacific Ocean in the year 2045. It also includes new Light and Dark Lore abilities, new magic items, and new monsters to add flavor to your campaign....

    68908-thumb140.jpg Afterpeak Systemless Setting
    Regular price: 0
    Bundle price:
     Watermarked PDF
    The naysayers were right...oil wells the world over have gone dry and civilization has collapsed into chaos. But from the ruins of war a new world is born. Magic is now humanity's ally as he seeks to rebuild the world that technology destroyed. Afterpeak is a Systemless Setting designed for use with any role playing game. It combines aspects of Fantasy, Science Fiction, and the Post Apocalypse genres without being confined by the stereotypes of these styles of play. Afterpeak includes information on gaming in this new world, a new system of magic to integrate into your campaign, and dozens of new monsters to throw at your players. Do you dare enter the World of Afterpeak?...

    115134-thumb140.jpg Modern Monks Player's Guide
    Regular price: 0
    Bundle price:
    Modern Monks is a retro-clone inspired role playing game with a focus on martial arts in the preset day. The rules of this game are designed to emulate the second edition of one of the world's most well known fantasy games. It can be used for campaigns focusing on gritty realism or the over the top super moves found in video games and anime. The Modern Monks Player's Guide contains rules for characters level 1-20. Inside you'll find: -Six character classes: the versitle martial artist who can focus on power, defense, or quick strikes, the tough soldier, the sneaky rogue, and the civilian. -Skills and Techniques to customize your character -Armor, weapons, and equipment -Guidelines for economics -11 character specialties like the rugged survivalist, the wise sensei, the daring ...

    117425-thumb140.jpg Monsters of Afterpeak
    Regular price: 0
    Bundle price:
    This supplement for the Modern Monks role playing game contains game statistics for all of the monsters listed in the Afterpeak setting book as well as nine new creatures....

    178825-thumb140.jpg Monsters of Afterpeak 2
    Regular price: 0
    Bundle price:
     Watermarked PDF
    This supplement for the Modern Monks role playing game contains game statistics for 40 antagonists for your Afterpeak campaign. Monsters of Afterpeak 2 contains monsters from the Oceania supplement, human NPCs, and a few new creatures....

    Total value: 0
    Special bundle price: 0
    Savings of: 0 (40%)
    Hurricane Ian relief bundle [BUNDLE]Price: $25.00 Read more »
  • SOS19 The Fall of Fate Keep
    Publisher: Starry Knight Press


    An Introductory Level Fantasy Adventure
    Intended for Player Characters Levels 1 to 3

    When resting around a campfire after a long day in the saddle,
    the last thing anyone wants to deal with is unexpected guests.
    Especially when they bring along angry, sword wielding friends!
    But this is exactly what happens on a cool summer night when a
    young woman, chased by skeletons, runs up seeking your help.
    Will your players answer the hero’s call?

    Greetings adventurers and Game Masters! 

    I am very happy to release the nineteenth book in my Old School Series of adventures, THE FALL OF FATE KEEP. In this scenario your players will come to the aid of a band of fellow heroes who have gotten in over their head when they invaded the dungeon below a ruined keep. These youngsters were searching for hidden treasure and a fabled magic pool, purported to grant wishes to those who sample its waters! This introductory adventure is intended for 4 to 6 players of levels 1 to 3, and it offers GM's a great way to begin a new campaign.

    Synopsis: While travelling between quests, the players are camped on the side of the road, near an an old ruined keep, in a small patch of swampland along the western coast of the province of Magus, in the nation of The Imperium. The excitement begins when a pair of adventurers come running out of the ruined keep across the road and right into the party’s camp. Chased by a group of foul undead, the pair stumbles and falls, bleeding and afraid, right beside the party’s campfire, begging for their aid. The players will have little choice in the matter as the mindless undead set about attacking all living beings in their path, including the players. After the battle the players discover one of the new arrivals has died, and the other begs for the players’ aid in rescuing her comrades from the dungeon beneath the nearby ruins.

    Will your players answer the hero’s call?

    Maps of Arx Fatum and the Dungeon Below

     SOS19+map1 SOS19_map2

    Cartography by Louis "sirlou" Kahn, all rights reserved.

    This adventure was written for use with the OSRIC/1E rulesets, but it is sufficiently generic to be compatible with most fantasy role-playing games (FRPG). Minimal statistics are included in the text of the adventure, and the Game Master is encouraged to use their ruleset of choice. This scenario also features new magic items, including a rare and wonderous suit of blessed alligator armour, which allows the player to transform into one of these powerful predators!

    PLUS with this purchase you also get a free copy of my 2022 Starry Knight Press Catalog, which has information on all of my modules and supplements, as well as maps of the known portions of my campaign world of Terrans, and bonus content (new monsters and magic items for OSR/5E rules) from my published books!

    Louis “sirlou” Kahn
    Starry Knight Press
    September 2022

    SOS19 The Fall of Fate KeepPrice: $4.99 Read more »

    Gnome Stew

  • In-Game Adjustments

    A few weeks ago I was running my Night’s Black Agents (NBA) game, and the agents had just come off of one kinetic op, and right into another (because the timing was critical). They were banged up and their skill pools were somewhat depleted. Their opposition at the other site was not overwhelming but was going to be tough. Fast Forward. They are in the middle of the fight, and several of them are rolling poorly, and the tough encounter is now getting much harder. I have three vampires bottled up in a lab, and if they break out, they will overwhelm the agents. So rather than just crushing them, I task two of them to secure samples, taking them out of the fight, and I take one vampire and steer them at the agents, making for tense combat, but one that is winnable. In the end, the agents did defeat all the vampires but also got pretty banged up, and it made for a very exciting session. 

    Afterward, I reflected on exactly what I had done – that is, I made in-game adjustments to the difficulty of the encounter in order to make the encounter exciting. I could have easily overwhelmed them if I had wanted to, but rather I chose to adjust the difficulty of the encounter to better match the players. Was I going to flat out let them win? No. There need to be chances of failure to keep tension, but at the same time just overwhelming them would not seem fun.

    I realized that those adjustments are things I have done for years, in nearly every game I have played. It is not something that the rulebook taught me to do, and it is not a thing that any game codified in its rules. Despite all that, it is a skill that I have, one that I use, and when I talked to some other GMs they have it too. So let’s talk more about this skill/technique.

    The Little Adjustments We Do

    As the GM, we are the main interface to the rest of the game world. We possess knowledge beyond what the players know in the game, which extends to things like stat blocks and the contents of encounters. We are also, in most cases, the arbitrator of the rules of the game, and in many games empowered to determine the difficulty of a given task or opposition. It is within all of these abilities that lies our ability to make adjustments to the game on the fly. A task that was DC 15 can become DC 13 if we want, or vice versa. We can be arbitrary about it, or we can wrap it in some narrative dressing, but when it comes down to it, we have the ability to adjust the difficulty of the game as it is played. 

    Why Would We Adjust? 

    There are a number of reasons why we might make adjustments. From my own tenure as GM, here are some of the reasons I have done it: 

    • Cooling off or Heating up a Combat – the combat encounter has become too easy or too hard, and adjustments are made to get it into that sweet middle spot. 
    • Prep Mistake – This one often ties to the one above, but when you prepped the session you set the encounter to one difficulty, but in play realize it needs to be adjusted up or down. 
    • The player is having a bad night – The player is not rolling well and can’t catch a break. They have become frustrated and they are not having fun – and potentially it’s impacting everyone else. (Note – I don’t adjust things if a player is on a roll. If they are doing well, I don’t knock them down). 
    • Narrative Positioning – The players have described action or some part of the environment in a creative way that would make things easier. I will make an adjustment to reward creativity. 

    In most cases, I am making adjustments to fine-tune combat, be it to correct a prep mistake or to dial in the tension of the combat scene. 

    Ways to make Adjustments

    How you make your adjustments will have a lot to do with the game you are playing. The best adjustments operate within the rules system, in the places where we have some latitude. Here is a list of some of the more popular ways I have made adjustments. 

    Hit Point Adjustments

    This one is easy and works in any game that has a point system for taking damage. You can give or take away points from NPCs to make combat go longer or shorter, respectively. Sometimes, I just add some points to an NPC, sometimes I just give the PCs the kill if the creature is a point or two away from zero, etc. 

    Difficulty Adjustments

    This one is also straightforward. You can adjust the difficulty of a check up or down to make it harder or easier (depending on how your system works). This is true for things like skill checks, but it is also true for the difficulty of hitting an NPC in combat. Sometimes, I will give a narrative explanation, other times I just simply will say if a challenge passes or fails. 

    Narrative Positioning Bonuses

    This one is giving a reward or penalty based on some description of the task or attack. The bonus is never anything too powerful in either direction, but enough to make it meaningful. This one is good in Powered by the Apocalypse games where I can give a +1 Forward for something good that the player has come up with. 


    This is my favorite adjustment technique. You give the NPCs motivations beyond “kill all characters”. Then you have the narrative latitude to decide if an NPC is going to press an attack or follow their other motivation. That motivation might be that they don’t want to die and that they may run or surrender. They may have another objective like to get something or someone to safety, so they would rather escape combat rather than stay and fight. This achieves the same goal as the next item, but it allows you to have the NPC change their mind and re-engage the combat if you need to dial it back up.

    Reducing opponents

    Another technique I often use is waves of opponents. I will prep 2-3 waves of opponents, with the first wave clearly visible when the encounter starts and the other waves arriving mid-combat. If the players clear that first wave easily, then the second wave engages at once, if the first wave turns out to give them problems, then I delay the second wave, or I reduce the second wave’s numbers, etc. Because they are not visible to the players, they don’t see me making NPCs vanish before their eyes.

    Banking for Future Use (Offscreen)

    This is a favorite of mine in PbtA games. If I need to cool off an encounter that is starting to overwhelm the players, then when I get to take a move, I will always pick the one that happens offscreen. This then takes some immediate pressure off the players, while at the same time, keeping some tension, as they know something else is going to happen. 

    Those are just a handful of the techniques I have used. There are many other ones, and I suspect you know a bunch for the games that you are well versed in. 

    Do you Do This All The Time?

    It is worth saying that I don’t do this with every encounter. Failure in games is important, and sometimes it’s fine to let characters get overrun and have to retreat. These techniques are a tool – one that I use when I feel that the play of the game is not aligned with the feel of the game I am going for. Then I will use one of these tools to put those into closer alignment. 

    Should We Talk About This?

    In most games, this is not explicitly defined as a GM role, and yet, for many of us, we are using these techniques to make our games more enjoyable for us and our players. Should we talk about this with our players? 

    At Session Zero

    If there is a time for having this discussion I think it is during Session Zero when it is more of a theoretical discussion and used to set expectations. Telling the players that these are techniques you use, and asking if they are ok with them, is a good way to get some consent, as well as perhaps to set some boundaries on when you will use it, or certain techniques you will or won’t use.

    During The Session

    Personally, I never do this. This to me is “making the sausage”, which is the thing the players do not want to see, because it may ruin the experience of play. When I do these things, I just do them at the table and move along. 

    After The Session

    I don’t always tell my players if I have made any adjustments about a session, but if I did, it would be after – but even then, I am not inclined to tell them. My one exception is that if the explanation will help teach a newer GM, then I am fine pulling back the curtain and explaining to them how some of these things work. 

    You Made Your Point Hans

    RPGs are not always predictable, in a good way. On any given night an encounter can be spectacular or a flop. You can, and there is nothing wrong with it, leave everything to chance, let the dice fall where they may. But for many GMs, we are looking to create a certain kind of experience, and sometimes that means making some adjustments to encounters to tune them to the desired effect. In order to do that, we can employ a number of tools, based on the games we are playing. When done well, and for the right reasons, you can help craft memorable experiences. 

    What about you? Do you make in-game adjustments? What is the most common reason you do it? What are the techniques you like to employ? 


    Read more »
  • mp3GNOMECAST #149 – Travel and Journey’s

    This episode of the Gnomecast features Ang, Phil, and John talking about getting around in RPGs.

    Read more »

    RPGWatch Newsfeed

  • RPG General News - Looking back at Tibia
    Felipe Pepe (RPG historian) looks back at the old MMO Tibia: How a 25-year-old German MMO became a Pokémon fangame AKA Brazilians strikes again When talking about the pioneer MMORPGs of the 90s — Meridian 59, Ultima Online, EverQuest, etc — there is a name that is often overlooked: Tibia, a German free-to-play MMO first released in 1997.... Read more »
  • The DioField Chronicle - Review @ Destructoid
    Destructoid checked out The DioField Chronicle: Review: The DioField Chronicle You thought it was turn based, but it was me, DioField The DioField Chronicle is an odd one among the cavalcade of tactics we’ve seen this year. It’s real-time, rather than turn-based; it’s about tight, compact skirmishes rather than drawn-out battles.... Read more »

    Sly Flourish

  • VideoConvert and Scale Published D&D Adventures

    With thousands of adventures written before the release of the 5th edition of D&D, we have a huge legacy of content we can use in our games. All it needs is some conversion.

    Luckily, converting adventures to 5th edition is easy enough to do. It mostly come down to replacing the monsters in the adventure with monster from the Monster Manual. Choose the one closest to the one described in the adventure and you're done. If a monster in the adventure doesn't have a 5th edition equivalent (and I'd be surprised, there are literally thousands of 5e monsters these days), take the mechanically closest monster you can find in 5e and reskin it into the one described in the adventure.

    1st and 2nd edition D&D adventures are likely easiest to convert over to 5th edition. They're style aligns closely to the adventure style found in 5th edition. If you're worried that battles are too hard once you've done the conversion, use the lazy encounter benchmark to check what a deadly encounter might look like. If things are easy, you may want to beef up boss battles, but you can likely leave the rest of it alone.

    What about scaling adventures up or down in level? This is a little tricker. Again, using the lazy encounter benchmark and monster dials, you can do a lot to change up the difficulty of an adventure.

    There's one area where leveling an adventure up or down can be a problem though, and it has nothing to do with mechanics, it has to do with theme.

    The Right Theme for the Right Tier

    In Tier Appropriate Adventure Locations I offer a list of the types of locations that make sense for characters of a given tier. When I describe choosing the monsters that makes sense for the situation, we don't choose monsters based on the level of the characters. Instead we choose quests, locations, and overall situations that make sense for the current status (level) of the characters. You don't ask 1st level characters to drop into Thanatos and kill Orcus. Nor do you ask 18th level characters to go down into Uncle Ed's cellars to take care of his giant rat problem. (I've often considered a quest in which Uncle Ed sends 18th level characters into his basement to take care of his Orcus problem.) Quests should match the character's capabilities and station in the world (often represented by level) and this all has to do with story, not mechanics. Here's a quick breakdown of what that looks like:

    • 1st level (tier 0). Small problems. Rats in the basement of the local inn.
    • 2nd to 4th level (tier 1). Local problems. Bandits, thieves, local evil mercenaries.
    • 5th to 10th level (tier 2). Regional problems. Evil kingdoms. Rampaging dragons. Invading undead armies.
    • 11th to 16th level (tier 3). Global problems. World-ending magic. Lichs. Ancient dragons. Invading planar beings. Evil moons.
    • 17th to 20th level (tier 4). Multiverse problems. Planar doomsday weapons. Demon princes. Archdevils. Archlichs. Invasions of the Nine Hells. Abyssal apocalypses.

    When you're scaling an adventure for the characters, ask if the theme of the adventure fits the level of the characters using the breakdown above. Is this the kind of job they should be doing? Are they too powerful and important to deal with such things? Are they too weak to take on a big job? Matching the theme of an adventure to the power of the characters matters.

    Can you change the entire theme of an adventure to fit the characters? Maybe, but that's probably not worth the effort. Better is to find an adventure that makes sense for the characters.

    Last Week's Lazy D&D Talk Show Topics

    Each week I record an episode of the Lazy D&D Talk Show in which I talk about all things D&D. Here are last week's topics with timestamped links to the YouTube video:

    Related Articles

    Get More from Sly Flourish

    Buy Sly Flourish's Books

    Read more »
  • VideoPause for a Minute

    Sometimes we need a way to quickly break character and check in with the players. This might be part of a set of safety tools to make sure everyone's ok with the content of our game at any given point or it might be a way to arbitrate the results of a decision by speaking to the players instead of the characters.

    The X-Card by John Stavropoulos is one of the more popular safety tools often used to indicate one's discomfort with a given situation in a non-confrontational way. It's popular enough that Roll20 integrated it directly into their game platform.

    The X-card is an excellent tool but it's not the easiest thing to incorporate in an online game. Instead, we can look to one of the elements of Beau Sheldon's script change. In particular the element of "pause". I call this "Pause for a Minute" and here's how it works:

    • At any point, any player or the DM can say "pause for a minute". All in-character and out-of-character conversations stop.
    • Whoever paused can either talk about their current thought, ask for a break, or ask to talk to the DM privately.
    • When the situation is resolved, the DM can say "game on" and the game returns.

    Players or DMs can call for a pause for any of the following reasons:

    • They're uncomfortable with something going on in-game.
    • They're not happy with a decision getting made by the characters.
    • They want to clarify that everyone else is ok with what they're doing.
    • The DM wants to ensure everyone's ok with the direction things are going.
    • They want to figure out where everyone is in the story or catch up after losing track.

    During a session zero DMs can discuss how to use "pause for a minute" and what it means for the DM and the players.

    For more on this topic, see the following:

    Not Just For Safety

    The most important use of "pause for a minute" is to make sure players and the DM are ok with the content or situations going on in a game. It gives everyone a way to say "hang on, I'm not digging this" and stop it before it cascades into something worse.

    But another use for "pause for a minute" is to ensure everyone's having a good time and on the same page. This is a great way to break out of the dreaded "it's what my character would do" situations. Pausing for a minute doesn't have to be matter of emotional safety; it can just be a way for the players to break away from the drives of their characters and make sure those drives align with the other characters and the game itself.

    "Pause for a minute" helps us deal with in-character conflicts like rogues stealing from the group or wizards fireballing their allies.

    "Pause for a minute. Rex, are you ok if Elfuel fireballs you to kill all the skeletons around you? Yes? Cool! Game on."

    Use It Frequently

    Because "pause for a minute" can be used for a wide range of situations, DMs should regularly use it to get players comfortable with using it themselves and to make sure players are good with the game.

    "Pause for a minute. Is everyone ok with Gor using animate dead on the dead drow warriors? Oh yeah, I forget you all had a zombie ogre carting around your loot for the last eleven months. Game on!"

    The more comfortable everyone is using "pause for a minute", the easier it becomes for someone to use it when it is a matter of emotional safety. As long as it's always respected — everyone breaks character and stops conversations to hear what the pausing player has to say — using it frequently only makes games better.

    Try It Out

    Some DMs find the whole concept of safety tools strange or somehow insulting. I urge you to keep an open mind. I didn't often use or integrate safety tools into my games and I regret it. It doesn't have to be a group of players you don't know. Someone you've known and gamed with for 20 years could be affected by something happening in-game and be upset by it. Do you really not want to offer an opportunity for someone to avoid feeling bad?

    Beyond that, a tool like "pause for a minute" just helps a game run smoother. It's a great way to step away from the characters and talk to your players. It's a great way to re-baseline and move forward with the awesome adventures to come.

    Add "pause for a minute" to your session zero or even talk about it with your players in the middle of the campaign. Tell them how to use it. Tell them what it's for. Use it to help steer your game in the right direction, and enjoy the tales you all share around the table.

    Last Week's Lazy D&D Talk Show Topics

    Each week I record an episode of the Lazy D&D Talk Show in which I talk about all things D&D. Here are last week's topics with timestamped links to the YouTube video:

    Related Articles

    Get More from Sly Flourish

    Buy Sly Flourish's Books

    Read more »

Begin typing your search above and press return to search. Press Esc to cancel.