Nick: this podcast is brought to you by listeners on patreon. Thanks to Jeanine and Adam, who made this episode what it isn’t today, and Hedwig and Mario for being the worst.
Pencil: welcome to the probably bad podcast, a podcast which is definitely bad. I’m pencil.
Paper: I’m paper. today’s probably bad rpg idea is… have your players roll incredibly hard perception checks every 10 minutes. When someone finally succeeds you reveal the big bad has been standing right there for the whole adventure.
Pencil: so yeah in terms of this idea obviously the way it’s done in the thing is maybe a bit excessive but I do like the idea of using perception checks as a method of pushing the story forward because the thing with perception checks is when the DM says roll a perception check you know there’s something to see there even if you do the perception check and don’t find it. So it’s using a perception check as foreshadowing.
Paper: I like the idea the big bad knows what you’ve been doing the whole time. By the time you meet them they’ve got so much ammo, they know all your weaknesses and all of your squabbles
Pencil:L I guess you could have the big bads… it’s an extreme version of the big bad is your mascot or your friend the big bad is actually nebulous space behind you you never thought to look at.
Paper: or ámjaybe the big bad is spying on you. I do like the idea the big bad is in the corner of your eye the whole time.
Pencil: you could even do it like you occasionally mention when describing people with something in the background – there’s a kid, an old man in a green shirt, and sede if anyone notices the old man in greeen who’s been thyere the whoel time and that’s the big bad.
Paper: that’s very gothic, this hovering threat you don’t see as a threta until it’s[ too late. I hope I’m using gothic right.
Pencil: if not the internet will yell at us. Or they’re invisible and you just give hints that something is moving around.
Paper: so it’s the classic DM thing of “I got a 4” “you’re in a room”, “i got a 4” “you see a man”
pencil: this time the man is actually nine foot tall fiery and it has a skull mask
paper: you only notice it’s a man
pencil: you also notice the man in the green top is also a pit fiend. You could do it very seriuosly with an invisible or beneath notice villain or silly like the terask has been behind you the whole adventure and you’ve been distracted.
Paper: the reason the perception check is so hard is that he’s a master of disguise. he’s the shopkeeper in the first town, and the little girl you rescued and the dog you found.
Pencil: I like the idea the party is following this dog and it takes its mask off and it’s a terask and says haha fooled you again. I don’t know why the terask talks but I feel ike it neds to.
Paper: I was inmagining this dog has a unibrow and a tattoo on his ankle
pencil: roll a d20 if it’s a 1 it’s count olaf.
Paper: count olaf would be such a good D&D villain though as he ahas all those elaborate schemes that are easily fooled. Part of the reason I like the series of unfortunate events books is he would be so easy to beat except the people with the power to do anything are useless, it’s real good in D&D.
Pencil: I like the idea of portraying kings, queens, monarchs, questgivers as Mr Poe. Also works quite well.
Paper: yeah cause once again it’s people who have the authority and power and resources to do something about this, and just don’t
pencil: what we’ve got here is the Series of Unfortunate Events Roleplaying game
paper: I’m fine with that as long as I can be Sunny.
Pencil: for people who don’t know what this is they’d be very concerned.
Paper: but if you want to find out I recommend the books or the netflix series and not the film
pencil: I like the idea of the master of disguise villain who might be count olaf. Follows you around and is a tree.
Paper: like the kid no-one likes in the nativity play. I did once play a dancing cat in a nayivit6y play. It was a downgrade cause I was an angel and mary then dancing cat.
Pencil: the roles I remember were evil robot no 7 and zombie no 9 I think.
Paper: I’m not up on my scripture but I don’t remember robots in the bible
pencil: cloearly you didn’t go to the school with the cool jesus
paper: nick the producer is just silently losing it.
Pencil: so it was like set in the future nativity I went to a school with a drama teacher who…
paper: it was a scifi second coming?
Pencil: it was the first nativity but set in the future we had to rescue jesus from the internet? I don’t remember all of it but I was a robot protecting jesus.
pencil: I had a teacher who tried to be avant-garde as he could while being a drama teacher and the school wasn’t good enough that most people didn’t care enough to ask questions
paper: speaking of questions should we do questions?
Pencil: yes when the conversation gets to robo jesus we need to move on.
pencil: our first question comes from derpravener. I Dmed my first game recently and while I did well there’s areas where I could improve. What advice woulo you give for including player backstories in the planning? I’m doing a couple sessions ahead and I don’t want to overplan.
Paper: this is how I run my games. I love incorporating backstories into the game. So there’s obviously multiple ways you could do this but the way I I likie to do it is to take a person who there’s not a lot of information about there might not even be a name there, just stick them in there intenrionally or unintentionally helping the big bad there was one where it was a characters’s deadbeat dad who happened to also be a gatekeeper for this quite important magical artifact so that was one way of doing it or in a more minor way they can act as plot helpers maybe you happen to go to a character’s hometown and muck around with that for a session or two. Your mum needs help oh no there’s amonster.
Pencil: the way I did it in a superhero game I ran for each backstory, their archenemy, supervillain attackling what have you – I also had a smaller plot thread like here’s a rival superhero is also doingf thigs and you occasionally hear about them and can deal with that or nhot as you want – so occasional things where the backstory comes in or that person you saved now runs a cake stall, that sort of thing./
Paper: or you can have a mini arc that has some of a character’s backstory – you don’t have to plan what the big bad’s overall plan is – but you can say the big bad wants to take over X country, and this character’s arc involves a county fair. The big bad has a minion there who wants to get ahold of something. You want to stop them.
Pencil: in terms of bad ways to incorporate a backstory into the game, the only thing- eh, words.
paper: if you can’t think of a way, you can just tell them “here’s your brother, you didn’t have one but he’s very important”
pencil: just make up their backstory.
Paper: you can say that but it’s the first series of Adventure Zone. So it’s great advice
penciL: try to be griffin mcelroy, you’ll be charming enough the players won’t mind when you say they’ve been raised by 30 badgers.
Paper: l like the idea of a character who’s been raised by badgers.
Pencil: and didn’t find out until 3 sessions in.
paper: I just thought they were tiny hairy people.
Pencil: turns out that rather than being a dwarf you were actually raised by badgers
paper: we had a question on the tumblr about what quirks someone raised by goats would have which is great as a lot of my undergrad degree was about goats. I’m juust wondering what personality quirks someone raised by a badget wouyld have cause iall I can think aobut is wind in the willows.
Pencil: the honey badger just bites people, everyone it meets.
Paper: it’s circled back to sunny baudelaire.
Pencil this has been a Unfortunate Events podcast the whole time you just failed your perception check. I love the badger from wind in the willows except he never stops biting people.
Paper: it would certainly be an interesting adaptation.
Pencil: next question?
Paper: yes comes from Sylvia I don’t know if either of you have played Curse of Strahd, but if you have then I have a question. Best and worst tarrokka deck readings? I think having the Sunsword being like in the Vistani wagon would be Bad. Or if you havent played CoS specifically, pros and cons of rigging things like that as the DM. I rig stuff like that all the time. I haven’t played curse of straad but if players have a deck of many things and there’s certain ones that – if you go off and follow this thread now the world will end, so I take those off the table.
Pencil: I played Curse of Straad, but I didn’t get to the tarrokka deck because one player insisted on having a spaceship. It sort of ruined the gothic horror. Intrusions of sci-fi into things that shouldn’t have sci-fi are a recurring trend in my life. Generally with divination card readings in games I think it’s generally just easier to say pick up a card and it’s got a sun on it that means you have to kill a vampire, I assume that’s what happens in Curse of Straad it went off script early. With the deck of many things don’t put it in unless you want to have it accidentally in the main campaign.
Paper: this was very early on in my campaign career.
Pencil: fair. At the risk of accidentally roasting paper, if you are doing a random thing and you need to rig it you possibly need to get the options you need to rig to avoid off the random table, or take away randomness.
Paper: I didn’t know what it was, I should have, but absolutely rig divination cause you cant just have like oh well this is what I planned but I guess this is what we’re doing instead. I’ve had characters use actual divination spells and I’ve gone “ok this is what I’ve planned for next session so I’ll hint at it”
pencil: so from what I know about the tarrokka deck which I didn’t just learn just now.
Paper: I probably should have looked it up in advance but I have been busy trying to convince my university to let me do my dissertation.
Pencil: good luck, I’ve been busy with the apocalypse, but yeah so essentially you’d use a deck – essentially you’d use a tarot reading it does seem just it means you choose what you get from what you draw – you draw commerce and you go “oh it’s in a bank”, I feel I would absolutely rig that
paper: it does seem like a way of planning part way through which seems wrong to me.
Pencil: if you like tarrokka decks more power to you but seems wrong to me.
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Paper: we have one more question which comes from raging roses. My siblings and I are all going to play D&D for the first time – do you have any tips for me as a DM because I don’t really know what I’m doing., this is concerningly vague I don’t really know what I’m doing. Are you sure you’re ready to DM?
Pencil: first step be Griffin Mcelroy as established. It is hard to come up with just… I would like to know how to DM.
Paper: let your players muck around is the thing if you railroad them there’s no real stakes – you need to save this village, ok we saved it, I feel nothing because I know nothing about the village.
PenciL: yeah don’t over plan, work on the assumption that the players are going to go off script.
Paper: the person in the first question mentioning only planning a couple sessions ahead is really good advice honestly. You want to know the vague beats but a lot of it is going to be player driven and you need to be ready for that.
Pencil: think of it as you are helping these people create a story rather than you are sitting on a big chair telling them what to do which is a mistake a lot of starting Gms make.
Paper: the DM is a player but a player who knows a lot more.
Pencil: or sit on a big chair and make a crown have a sceptre whenever people don’t follow your plot hit them with it.
Paper there’s nothing saying you can’t sit on a big chair. On my discord server we often change the person who’s running it to The Mighty GM or God.
Pencil: walk in in gold flecked robes put on a crown hold out your sceptre and try to be humble and not overly control other people as you sit on a satin chair and let other players fan you and feed you grapes.
Paper: just feed your players some grapes and it’s fine. Unless one of your players is a dog.
Pencil: and don’t -play with dogs they can’t hold the character sheet in their mouths. Also it’s a good idea to feed the players grapes.
Paper: I didn’t mean it to but it’s good to give them some semblance of power – like if you’re bringing them to a town don’t control every aspect in advance. They want something you didn’t think of but you wish you did.
Pencil: it’s good to give players some input in the worldbuilding, even if it’s just I want to go to the tavern and there’s a tavern there. it’s a boring example.
Paper: let them name the tavern, so they get more connection, you want them to have a sense of ownership over what is happening rtather than being dumped into it but don’t let them have a spaceship.
Pencil: unless it’s something completely ridiculous like spaceship try to say yes to your players.
Paper: yes but is a really good general DMing rule, there is this shop that sells an incredibly rare thing but you’ve got to get the shopkeeper on side first or you don’t know where it is.
Pencil: let your players have grapes unless you’re griffin mcelroy in which you can do what you want. Otherwise let your players have grapes. Again I don’t know much about Adventure Time…
paper: adventure zone!
Pencil: all I know is I’d let him come in here and break my legs he’s just that charming.
Paper: and on that disconcerting note that’s about what we’ve got for today if you have a question you can send it to us on tumblr at probablybadrpgideas.tumblr.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org, thanks to Nick Blake for editing, we have a patreon, we have a probablybad rpg server where we have watchalongs and talk about games, homebrew content, bonus episodes. Or leave us a review. we’re currently on 5 stars on apple podcasts which is exciting
Both: and remember to have a probably bad day.