This meme was going around on Twitter, but that site isn’t good at
so I’m making a blog entry instead.
- Favorite campaign or one-shot you’ve run?
I ran a campaign with my cousins. We started in Pathfinder, but switched to Dungeon World in a Very Special Christmas Episode. We were already friends, so we had a great time together. The snacks were also amazing. I kept driving the plot towards things the PCs cared about, so the climax was thrilling and emotional.
- A campaign you want to run?
An anti-colonial exploration campaign where players can drop in and out, about understanding a new ecosystem and helping it thrive. I just have to write a system for it.
- Favorite encounter to run: social, exploration, or combat?
Back when I ran Pathfinder I was good at smoothly applying the many rules of combat. Now I prefer social situations and intrigue. I struggle to make exploration and traversal interesting.
- Favorite NPC you’ve created?
From the following questions, I guess this is for NPCs who aren’t allies or villains. Lady Evelynn fits that description. The party accidentally teleported into her estate & she offered hospitality because they amused her. She’s not quite human, has some spooky powers and a nasty temper. Read all about her
- Favorite villain NPC?
The party accidentally killed a cop & intentionally reincarnated her. (They were trying not to be bad guys) Waking up in a coffin next to her own dead body was very traumatic, so she dedicated her life to revenge. She became a necromancer and raised her original body to be her undead champion. After killing the undead champion, the party recognized the body & realized who was behind all the other bad things that had happened to them.
PC: It was her all this time? I’ll kill her!
DM: That’ll be the third time.
- Favorite ally NPC?
Ferdinand is a big, strong elf who’s sweet, but not too bright. He keeps getting into situations he doesn’t understand, but he trusts his friends and tries his best. He has triggered several OOC outbursts of affections from players. Read about his adventures in parts 1-7
- Favorite PC/NPC dynamic?
Impertinent, curious PC + NPC assassin who struggles with professionalism + magical ward against all violence = ceaseless taunting questions https://cliffnordman.com/blog/2019/02/28/fairmeadow-fair-session-12/ …
- Ever named an NPC after someone?
Coming up with names on the spot is hard for me. (Note my assumption that all NPCs are improvised) so I’ll often name them after other characters. Angus from TAZ, Evelynn & Jayce from LOL, Dandelion from The Witcher.
- Ever cameoed a character from another campaign?
I’ve run Fairmeadow Fair for five different groups, so lots of people have met Ferdinand, Samantha, Hobert, and Pepe. Does that count? I took the magic shop owner from Pathfinder’s Rise of the Runelords for one of my campaigns.
- Favorite dungeon you’ve run?
I wrote a Pathfinder one-shot based on the cliche of waking up in jail with no gear. Usually, the PCs have to outsmart one or two guards, then get all their gear from the armory. In this scenario, the pre-made characters can’t find their gear, but they don’t depend on weapons or armor to fight. They tear the place apart bare-handed (and in the Orc’s case, completely naked). In another campaign, I locked the party in the science labs of a fantasy college: Anti-tamper locks, suspicious packages, dangerous machinery, a high-security jail cell? Read about the escape from the labs.
- Favorite monster you’ve played?
A spellcaster fell out of the sky in a coffin, setting a PC on fire. She wielded the coffin lid as a tower shield, and when her magical strength was dispelled, she commanded snakes to cover her arm and hold the shield for her.
- A monster you haven’t run, but want to?
I want monsters like Newt Scamander’s Fantastic Beasts, that have personalities, habits, needs, and fears. I want players to discover this attributes and figure out how to co-exist with them, instead of killing them for money & glory.
- Favorite magic item?
The Decoy Ring is so obviously abuseable. The melee monster opens combat by withdrawing forward, past the enemy front line & stands invisibly next to enemy spellcasters, ready for AOOs and a full attack next turn.
- Preferred party size?
Two players is most common, but I prefer 3 or 4. More than 5 seems difficult to keep track of. I want to run something like West Marches, where each session has a small party drawn from a large player pool.
- Most fun PC levels to run for?
Consider a system where character level isn’t such a big deal! In Pathfinder I build characters at level 7: high enough to have access to a good number of tricks, low enough that they don’t break the world. Some examples.
- Favorite PC classes to run for?
Preferring certain classes seems rude, since it implies a limitation on what players can choose.
- Ever had a PC death or TKPO?
I once played a system for hours without realizing it didn’t have affordances to damage or kill PCs. Character death is rarely a compelling setback. It’s either catastrophic or inconvenient.
- Have your players ever turned a minor NPC/item into something important?
I arranged for the party to interrupt a miniboss performing some dark ritual at an evil tree. I thought the party would kill the miniboss & never return, but the Druid was determined to heal the forest from the tree’s influence. Cleansing the tree became the final battle & almost cost the Druid his life.
- Most outrageous plan your players ever pulled off?
A player had started two urban legends by covering up his exploits, but these legends were being used to frame his friend. He cleared his friend’s name and his own, and convinced everyone that one legend had killed the other. Read all the details.
- Favorite improvised decision you’ve made?
A spellcaster shot magical webs at the party and instead of using Dexterity to dodge them, the Cleric used Wisdom to see that the webs were an illusion. OK, fine. You pierce the veil of Reality. The webs are an illusion, as is the physical form of the spellcaster. You are now aware of luminous beings, covered in eyes and extra limbs, who are striving to transcend their mortal limitations. Care to join their support group?
- Favorite voice(s) to use?
I change my diction and body language for NPCs when I have a strong sense of who they are. I don’t have that strong sense of character for most NPCs, so I use my normal voice. For clarity, I wish I had different voices to separate narration from dialog.
- Ever use accents?
- Any sound effects?
I use onomatopoeias like “crack” and “whoosh” when narrating, but I don’t have a sound board.
- What kind of music do you use?
According to these questions, accents are optional but music is not. Recognize & question your assumptions! I don’t play music when I run games.
- Pre-existing lore, or make up your own?
Always my own lore. Do I even run pre-written scenarios? OK, I ran a Dark Eye quickstart game, but its lore was simple & generic. Lady Blackbird has a setting, but it’s so loosely defined that the players and I had a lot of freedom to make it our own.
- Grids and miniatures?
I used to run Pathfinder, so I own a wet-erase grid, but now I run much lighter systems, so I’ll sketch a map on a piece of normal paper. I sometimes have tokens to indicate where the PCs are, but I mostly just point “He’s there, and you’re up here.”
- Do you prefer playing or DMing?
I haven’t played a PC in such a long time that I can’t compare. We were a player short for one session of Lady Blackbird, so I piloted that PC as well as all the other NPCs that I’m usually responsible for. It was different having a whole character sheet. I liked it.
- Favorite things about DMing?
The creativity feedback loop between me and my players feels so good. My players thrill me with their decisions, and I respond by I pushing their characters into situations where they will shine some more. I am so proud of my players and their characters!
P.S. I liked having blog posts to link to for extra details. I have a lot of notes in folders for different TTRPG campaigns, but it would be nice to have them all written up nicely in an edited, accessible, durable format. Is there a repository for such things online? Like AO3 for TTRPGs?