• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Finally, you can manage your Google Docs, uploads, and email attachments (plus Dropbox and Slack files) in one convenient place. Claim a free account, and in less than 2 minutes, Dokkio (from the makers of PBworks) can automatically organize your content for you.



Page history last edited by Jon Goranson 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Welcome to the DMGaming Wiki!


This is the main page for DMGaming, a group of friends gaming in the Des Moines area. The main voice of it will be me, Jon, the GM for the group. I started this wiki with the hope that the players would continue it for the Cormyr campaign. However, I loved its flexibility and ease of use so much that I decided to use it to chronicle the games I have run since we moved to Des Moines in 2002. That the group can use it for the current campaign is a great extra.


The group has played many games since it was first created in late summer of 2002. DND brought the group together. After that, I tried Exalted, Alternity, and the New World of Darkness RPGs. Currently, the group is using Alternity as the rules set for a Fantasy campaign set in the Forgotten Realms. I have been very lucky in that my players have graciously agreed to come for the ride as I try out other systems and see what they have to offer. Currently, I still like Alternity the best as a game system and so that's what we are playing.


To the left are the campaigns that have been run through the years. Around January of 2003, I bought a laptop to help with my gaming, which mostly included notes. Therefore, with the exception of the first DND campaign, which is only half recorded in some electronic format, most of the campaigns have at least some notes which will allow me to post them here.



My Style

 {The DM made the mistake of allowing players to add things...like this picture...hehe}


Realizations - 6/2014


After crashing with Shadowrun for various reasons, we decided to get back to our "roots" and play Pathfinder (PF) for all of 2014.  At this moment, we just finished up a published Adventure Path (AP), Council of Thieves and you, dear reader, can read about the sessions on here.  We did this because we didn't want to keep skipping around in games and wanted to learn it well.  Or, at least, I did and my players were gracious enough to go along with me.  


I'm very torn about published adventures.  However, this goes along with all of the other things I have realized.  While we like the idea of a free form game, it didn't work for us.  We tried Dresden Files RPG and it's a tough thing to do.  Same for Exalted and Vampire.  The problem is that all of those games assume the players, as a whole, are bringing half of the story to the table, and the GM brings the other half.  However, I have players that want to be entertained or play a game and not have to think about this stuff.  That's fine.  But it makes free form systems that make that assumption very difficult to play.  So, we went back to PF.


Was it a success?  The PF game itself did well.  We fudged a lot and learned a lot.  I better understand why the WEG d6 version of Star Wars didn't give concrete ideas and instead suggested playing up the drama.  Once something is concrete, say the DC to cast a spell with an added metamagic feat, is decided, it becomes a goal that the players can reach.  And once they reach it, it's not like a book or movie where they use it once, at the most dramatic and appropriate time.  They use it EVERY.  SINGLE.  TIME.  Now, I wrote it that way only because this served as a reminder to me not to give a power or ability or skill option that I don't want them to use every time.  Or to add a consequence of some kind if they do it.  It also makes me look at the ability or power in question and ask if I want it used every time.  


The flip side is the AP.  Overall, I was not impressed with this AP.  It had some good ideas and I think I capitalized on those reasonably well.  But the AP did not come together in the end in a good way.  I much prefer what we ended up doing and think it worked much better.  In the beginning, I was hesitant to change much because I wanted, and I wanted my players, to experience the AP as written.  When I hit something that I knew none of us would like, though, I knew I had to start going my own way to make it work for the group.  And I think it was more fun when I did that, at least for me.  


With all of that xp behind us, we are now going to embark on a new PF adventure.  However, this time it will be me creating it as well.  I'm going to use Realm Works to help me stay on track and in turn, keep the players on track.  I have already started getting ideas together and am enjoying the process!



More thoughts - 7/2013


We have started over with a new campaign, Shadowrun.  I really enjoyed Alternity and what we did with it and hopefully we can go back to it some day.  


We have figured out we like more established characters than neophytes.  


We have also figured out we like the newness of starting over compared to longer campaigns, which is why after six to nine months, our campaigns end.  


Back to the Middle?  - 2/2013


My weekly group spent the last few years trying out many games.  We prefer role playing with some combat.  A nice mix of the two is best.  What we wanted was a game that would mechanically help us tell our stories, instead of feeling that we were forcing the game to do something it couldn't, or wouldn't, do.  To this end, we tried the following games:


Star Wars Saga


Vampire the Requiem

d20 CoC


Dresden Files RPG

Castles and Crusades



We ended up starting a fantasy game in C&C, not liking it and switching over to Dark Sun.  Other circumstances forced us to relook at the game and we decided to start anew but keep Alternity.  I have liked Alternity for a long time and was lucky that my players have liked it as well.  We are currently playing a more supernatural version of Dark*Matter and having a lot of fun with it!  


That's not to say we won't change again once this campaign is done, whenever that is.  Overall, we like games and I like running games and trying new things.  But I think all of us have been quite happy with how well Alternity has worked out for us.  


In fact, as I sit here and read my old posts, especially the one dated 9/2007, I'm struck by several things.  As much as I liked and played Alternity, I don't think I really grokked it.  Not completely.  It was only after playing all of the games above, as well as getting into the rules and really understanding them, that I have come to understand Alternity better.  And I embrace it.  It's not perfect but I keep coming back to it and finding new ways that it impresses me.  One of the things I said about Alternity was it didn't do fantasy well.  It doesn't do heroic, over the top DND/PF style fantasy well.  But it can do grim and gritty and some aspects of heroic fantasy just fine.  It took me some time to figure out how to make it work that way.  


I also became very disappointed in 4E.  It's not a bad game and the ideas of the system as a whole are good.  I don't like the mechanics of it.  The mechanics seem to limit choices too much to me.  But I also found character mechanics weren't satisfying to me anymore.  I think it's just my style of play has evolved and 4E doesn't work for it anymore.  


Back to the Beginning - 10/2010


We are going to start up a new campaign.  I don't know what we will play, mechanic or setting.  Have to see what we decide to decide.


Update:  We went with 4E and FR.  I got the gray box as if new, mostly for the physical maps, and am using that.  So, it's 1357 DR and I set the adventure in Scornubel.  As I go to look through my over twenty years of books for resources on this area, there isn't much.  It's described as "miles and miles of miles and miles" and the place people travel through on the way to where they want to go.  (Kansas?  Nebraska?  Dakota?)  So, it's good and bad.  Bad in that I did want some specific history of this area but good in that it's wide open for me to make up.  



Dark Sun - 8/2009


The big announcement at Gen Con by WotC was that Dark Sun would be the 2010 campaign.  I am SO excited about it!  I really liked Dark Sun when it first came out but wasn't able to understand why players didn't.  I understand it better now and hope that I can work past those fears.  I have already told my group that the next campaign will be set in Dark Sun and they have fortunately agreed and are going along with it.  I will see what happens the closer we get to this happening what they think about it.  


More thoughts on the Dark Sun Page.  


More ideas on gaming. - 8/2009


One of the big problems I have with gaming is the "telling" I have to do.  I don't know if it's my players or me but I do think about things and do try and have reasons for things.  The tough part is trying to explain it to the group.  It's not that they are dumb or that the tropes I am using are unknown to them.  It's that you have to be on the same wavelength.  


It's like riddles.  If a riddle suddenly pops up in a game, it's either known and so easy or not and then it brings play to halt as the *players* are stumped.  But, here's the thing, I am not playing to stump the "players" but to help them, and myself, have fun.  And having a riddle that's tough or not what they want to do is not fun.  So, I try and avoid those things.  They usually only serve to slow things down or make the game unfun.  


This is tough, though, because it does assume the players have the same knowledge as me and they don't.  At least, no perfectly.  Someone may know this books series or that TV series but they don't know them all.  So, it eventually means I have to explain some things to them.  And that's tough.  I want to give them enough so that they can figure out things on their own, rather than be handed the information.  (It's like how Duchovny complained about long speeches he had to give someone during The X-Files because it slows things down and is tough to make interesting.)  


Like anything, I am trying to find that balance that is a good mix of things we all know but still surprises them, players and characters.  And they still surprise me as well.  In one game session, a player understood that I wanted them to activate the alien artifact and see what happens, even though it's doubtful that would ever happen in real life.  It worked for the story and that's how it played out.  (This also saw me put what I thought was enough bad guys so they would run but they were forming how to attack them all so I had to put out even MORE ships.  I could have said it but instead I did it.  I don't know if that's better or not.)  


It's a continual learning process and fortunately I enjoy it!  I keep trying.  



Back to d20 - 5/2009


We have decided to go back to a d20 game after using White Wolf's World of Darkness for the past eight months.  (Apparently that's my pattern and I think I would like to break it.)  We are going to do the d20 version of Star*Drive instead of Alternity.  I am happy and excited about this.  I am sure we will use any rules, from any system, that makes sense.  I can already think of a few alternate rules I will be using.  But I am curious how well d20 holds up for me as I haven't been excited about a d20 game in a long time!


4E is here! - 6/2008


And I am very happy about that!


I have lots of thoughts on it that I will post here eventually.  I hope. 


Update 5/2009

I am happy with 4E.  We aren't currently playing it, though, but that has no bearing on how much I like it.  In fact, I am using it as a basis for comparison and I haven't done that in a long time.  I do want to get back to 4E at some point.  

Update 2/2013

I am no longer happy with 4E.   I don't know what happened and I don't hate it but I am finding that I prefer what 3E/Pathfinder do instead.  This might change again!  Never know!

Update 7/2020

After some distance and hearing what other people say, I have thought about this more.  Now, I still don't think I would prefer 4E as a system but at least I understand it better.  

Some background.  What I didn't like about 4E in the end was that the roles they had created got muddled.  Casters were supposed to be controller types while martials were strikers or tanks.  In a Dark Sun game, I had a player make a legal, martial controller.  He could force enemies to surround him and then attack them all.  It's not what I wanted.  


I watched several YouTube videos and found that the people who liked 4E were probably people who played it online because describing things in squares, instead of feet, made sense when they used VTTs or a generic grid system for combat.  Further, if they described the action, using the name of abilities to help describe how an attack went based on results, they could expand it how they wanted, since one of the things 4E did was lean toward the mechanics (gamist) of the game instead of descriptions.  What that also did, though, was make descriptions shorter and more concise.  Comparing descriptions from 3E, PF, or even 5E in some areas to 4E showed that 4E had specific ideas of how something should happen and the rules to back it up.  If anything, 5E muddled how grapple went, for example, when the description added what it might look like instead of staying focused on game rules.  

The idea is that the people playing online appreciated that the game helped them tell their stories.  Further, 4E was supposed to come out with a suite of programs to help online play and tracking of characters.  Since that didn't happen, we only got half of the designer's intention in the game.

I won't be going back to 4E for the base game but I do appreciate several things they did, like bloodied and some abilities that come from bloodied.  

In the end, though, I do think that the books don't read as well when looking for lore and I really don't like the Spellplague that they inflicted on FR, so will always change that in my own games.  



More Style Changes - 9/2007


My style has changed again.  As much as I love Alternity, to play the type of fantasy game that I want to play would be too much work.  I don't have the inclination to write all of what I would like the system to do.  I still like Alternity and think it does modern and SciFi very well.  However, for fantasy, I have gone back to DND. 


I have been okay with DND and what it does, this time around.  I understand better what DND does well and what it doesn't do well and that is helping. 


For example, DND really doesn't handle insanity.  It's about heroic fantasy, not realism.  So, trying to play someone that's insane won't work extremely well.  It's not that it can't be done, or that d20 can't do it, but it won't be done well by DND. 


And that's where I was always trying to push DND, in areas it didn't do well.  No wonder I wasn't satisfied!  So, we are using whatever rules of the 3.x DND set that make it fun. 


And I am waiting for 4E. 


To create Drama - 2/20/2007


I did something new. I shared my ideas of the metaplot with the players. I have told them my campaign idea. They know nearly as much as I do now. I did this so that they can help move the plot toward the ending. The idea is that there are still five or six ways it can end but now the players can make better decisions about what happens and move the plot in the way they want it to move.


I will see how this works but I am excited for it and I think it will work well. I think it will even work better for the next campaign!



What a Player wants - 2/20/2007


I am really slow.


I have been GMing for two decades. During this time, I have always tried to keep it quite open ended. If the player's want their characters to go left instead of right, not only was it fine with me but different things happen. I didn't railroad them. I tried to have a living world.


Apparently, that's not what players want. At all.


They apparently want a linear adventure with two or three choices here or there. They only need the illusion of being able to go any direction. They really want something that is predefined and done for them. I am still shocked at this. Even after all of this time, I can't believe it.


I am going to try and start using this knowledge as best as I can.


New thoughts and ideas - 1/31/2007


I just figured out why a lot of RPGs did what they did in the past. The one I most remember this with is the d6 Star Wars game. After having the very concrete game of DND, and being more literal, I didn't understand why they didn't list how many shots a blaster has. The game literally said to have the character's gun run out of ammo "at a dramatic point." I read it but I don't think I understand it until now.


The new style I have is that in general, the players talk about their character in third person POV. They can still interact with NPCs and talk like their character. However, in describing actions their character does, I like talking in third person. It really puts a distance there and allows others to give input without it being harsh.


This also allows for that drama. We can talk about what would be most dramatic or fun and then let the player redo their character actions. It is working out quite well. I like how we can all be involved, even if there the character, or NPC, isn't there. It has been quite fun!


Original Text - 2006


My style has changed radically in the past six months (years). Inspired by Babylon 5, I created campaigns that were long term. I needed every player there, almost every time, as things might come up for their character that week. Further, where ever we were when it was time to quit, we stopped. The only exception was the middle of a battle, although I have done that as well. I wanted the whole campaign to be a story, with each session a part of the larger whole.


However, I have realized that I was not playing to my medium (RPGs) nor my audience (the players). Further, that was not what Babylon 5 did. Babylon 5 had individual episodes that were self contained. Certainly, by later seasons, someone couldn't enter and understand what was happening, but they were still self contained. They might be mini arcs, done over a few episodes in a row, but they still had a beginning and an end.


To that end, I decided to re-create my style. I decided to have sessions be individual adventures, connected to a larger adventure. Now, if a player misses, it is easy to explain where they were and what they were doing, because each session is self contained. Further, they get definite answers in a particular session, while still allowing me to allude to something larger happening.


It is still a work in progress. I struggle with trying to fill the whole time. Sometimes I rush to get through some things but for the most part it has worked. I know I need to work on many things, including bringing it all together in a satisfying way, but overall this has been a good idea. Given the current state of my gaming, I think it handles things in the best way.


Thoughts on treasure and adventure structure - 7/2020


I'm a firm believer that the rules influence play.  In the end of the day, no matter how much we may want the game to be real, it's not.  This is why there is the idea of how to play games, either as a gamist, where you focus on the rules of the game, a simulationist, where you think about how to make it rule and have rules to help that, or narrativist, where you are more interested in story or drama.  I try to be in the center, being able to pull from any side, but also want it to be fun and a tad more about the story.  


In 1E/2E, there were no rules for creating your own magic items.  At best, there were Dragon articles that had guidance but it was very loose.  Things like create a list of exotic things they need and then make it a quest to get those things to make the item in question.  However, I think that attitude is because the prevailing idea of early DND was "find it, kill it, steal its treasure" and then repeat.  And whatever treasure they had was what they got.  I watched as the group strategy changed when they got a powerful item.  


And magic was also very different.  It can be argued that for combat, magic was very "scientific."  Say these things, use these components, and get this effect.  Outside of combat, though, it was very loose and whatever the group or DM made it.  There were a few non combat spells and Dragon had suggestions for more but most of the game was combat.  


What this also meant was that magic was disposable.  If you are using a +2 lizard slayer and find a +3 orc cleaver, you switch for the better plus.  Higher magic was the only DR these editions had, so flat out higher plus on a weapon is better.  There was no concept of having a family sword handed down because starting a first level character with a +2 or higher sword was a big deal.  


In 3E/PF, magic changed in many ways.  It became more formulaic, almost scientific.  Do these things to get a fireball.  Do these things to make a +1 sword.  Do this to add flame capabilities to the sword.  What 3E/PF also had were feats to allow classes to be better with certain weapons.  In 1E/2E, finding that new +2 short sword might mean a bit less damage rolled but you can now effect more monsters.  In 3E, finding a weapon that doesn't match up with a fighter's feats meant the fighter wasn't using most of their class abilities.  With how it handled magic, though, now you can improve dad's old sword, so you can keep using the ancestral weapon.  Again, maybe wonder why it wasn't already +3 to start, but even that was addressed with the idea of Legacy weapons or weapons that got better with the wielder.  


I say all of this because it used to be I would give out specific things and there was a gleam about them.  Maybe the player knew how much it was worth or how rare it was and knew they got something special.  That slowly morphed into feeling bummed that the new magic item meant not using their feats.  


At the end of the day, this is where having some gamist tendencies has to enter the equation.  I can still give them a neat weapon and they can appreciate it but if they decide to break it down and put the power of that sword into other ones, then that is what they do.  There is no concept of a sword that stays that way.  It's a tool to be used as needed by the players, even if that means destroying that weapon to enhance their own.  




If anyone has any questions, email me!




Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.