The Far Side of the Table: Death at the Table—How Do We Prepare for It?

Rummaging through the worn backpack, Strass pulled out and counted each potion of mind-shielding—three remained. Sharing a knowing glance with his friends, Strass passed out the potions: first to Kara, next Azreal, and then he motioned for Val to take one, but the rogue waved it away. Quaffing their remaining potions, the heroes prepared to enter the dark cave that stood before them. Strass ignored the feeling of dread that ran down his back....

The Far Side of the Table: Analyzing GM Mistakes, Part 2

Azreal smiled grimly as his shield blocked the flying debris. The paladin surveyed the scene before him. The tower room was decimated, and the vicious battle between Azreal’s companions and the red wizard was looking dire. Squaring off in the center of the room was Strass and the red mage, a freshly launched fireball forcing a scream from the barbarian’s seared lungs. Slinking behind a stone column, Val prepared an ambush, and Kara...

The Far Side of the Table: Adding New Characters to Your Game

Val clumsily brought his eighth glass of whiskey to his lips, wondering if, finally, this would be the shot that would do him in. The shouts of combat and explosions rang in his ears, and through his swimming vision and equally muddled thoughts, the image of Tyrash, his grim smile and the explosive barrel at his feet, came uninvited. “You’ve got the look of someone running,” the tavern owner was a solemn person of middling...

The Far Side of the Table: Analyzing GM Mistakes, Part 1

Welcome to the table. Every GM makes mistakes. Sometimes the mistake goes unnoticed, or the GM quickly remedies the situation without the players ever being aware that there was a problem in the first place. Other times, GMs make mistakes that bring the game to a halt, forcing both the players and the GM to pause and fix things. Over the next three articles, let’s analyze when and why something can go wrong. What are common categories for...

The Far Side of the Table: Giving Players Metanarrative Information

Strass was lost. Surrounded on three sides by towering stone walls, he groaned in frustration and looked to his two companions. Val and Azreal stood nearby, arguing over a crudely drawn map. Taking out his axe, Strass felt the comforting weight in his hands. He smiled as he imagined using it on Faldren the deceiver. Welcome to the table. This week, the adventurers followed their nemesis through a labyrinthine ruin. During their hunt, I planned...

The Far Side of the Table: In with the New and Out with the Old

Tyrash’s arms ached, and a sharp pain in his spine reminded him of his recent scrape with a group of thugs. A clawing fear slithered down his spine, causing the sharp pain to flare up again—he was getting old. Standing at the base of a winding mountainous path, Tyrash watched his companions nimbly climb the steep slope. With a heavy breath, he hefted the barrel of black powder he was carrying and trudged after his friends. Welcome to the...

The Far Side of the Table: Conflict and Villainy

The adventurers were in trouble, and Val knew it was his fault. Standing before a group of guards, Val, Tyrash, Azreal, and Strass watched as a portly shop owner squinted at each of them. As the merchant’s eyes fell on Val, the stolen bread in his sleeve seemed easily noticeable. Val closed his eyes as he watched the merchant slowly point at him. He was caught. First day in a new city, and he was going to prison. Then there was an...

The Far Side of the Table: Non-Traditional Currency

Hoping to avoid Countess Farsight’s rage for having killed a duke during a party in her estate, the adventurers made their way north. Looking out across an icy, wind-swept tundra, the adventurers trudged wearily toward a solitary fortress on the horizon. The adventurers wondered about what kind of life would await them in this new land. Welcome to the table! This week, having finished their work in Lurem’s Hold, the adventurers found...

The Far Side of the Table: Player-Controlled NPCs

Welcome to the table. Weeks of investigation led the adventurers to the Farsight Estate, where a gathering of nobles provides a perfect opportunity to identify who wants them dead. During this session, the players experienced a new design for social encounters—one that required them to roleplay as the nobles from whom they wanted information. Let’s talk about player-controlled NPCs. The sounds of soft music, gentle laughter, and the chimes of...

The Far Side of the Table: What did you find?

Welcome to the table. The other day, I had the opportunity to be a player at the table of a new GM. The game play was fun, and the story interesting, but most of all, I witnessed a decision I immediately planned to use in my own games. As the GM would hand out magic items that we discovered, they would ask the players what type of magic item it was. This was my first experience with player-defined items, so when I sat down to run my game, I was...

The Far Side of the Table: Who’s Telling the Story Here?

Welcome to the table. Tonight, my players split up across the town, and unfortunately, each wound up involved in deadly assassination plots. For a GM, a session like this may sound like a nightmare—multiple simultaneous fights across a split party. Yet as the night developed, I discovered an effective way to get the players to tell the outcome of their conflicts. Today, we talk about Narrative Authority and its effect at the table. Val and...

The Far Side of the Table: What’s on the Horizon

Welcome to the table. This is the final part of a three-part installment of The Far Side of the Table about “teching” your game. In earlier parts, we discussed how you can use projectors to digitize the table and how GMs can turn tablets and cellphones into roleplaying opportunities. In this article, I focus on possible futures for technology at the table. Let’s talk about some successful uses of technology at the table and the implications of...

The Far Side of the Table: “Teching” the Players

Welcome to the table. Today we talk about technology and players. This is part two of a three-part installment about “teching” your game. In the first part, we discussed the merits of projectors and digital battle maps. A much more challenging technology comes with cell phones, iPads, and other personal devices or “PDs,” for short. Let’s talk about turning cell phones and other PDs into assets for your game. Upgrading the Game: “Teching” the...

The Far Side of the Table: “Teching” the Table

Upgrading the Game: “Teching” the Table There is an enormous amount of technology that can be added to the table. Initiative trackers, digital character sheets, rulebook PDFs, and virtual dice rollers make up a small number of possible additions players or GMs may use. Throughout this installment, I work to describe my own adventures in using technology. Each article focuses on a different piece of technology, discussing its...


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