Our Second Test of a Low-Cost, Home-Built Projected Table-Top

For those paying attention, we’ve been working on physical resources–not just digital ones–this month.  If you haven’t looked at our first projector build you can click here.  Since then, we decided to take the basic concept and put a little more engineering into it.

But, first principles… we still wanted to keep the build itself in line with our overarching philosophy:

  1. It has to be economical.  Nothing too expensive.  Like, of course a real “projector mount” would be great, but the cost is a little outside where we wanted to be.  A good ceiling mount would be a hundred bucks, and that doesn’t take into account other things like still needing to mount the mirror.
  2. It has to be very configurable.  We wanted to approach this from the standpoint of a normal gaming group.  What if the ceiling is 9 feet instead of 8?  What if the table is an inch or two taller or shorter?  What if I need to be able to put it up and take it down with ease?  Our builds are trying to stay within the bounds of “adjustable and removable”.
  3. It has to work now and in the future.  In the end, it has to meet the needs of my current projector and (ideally) a new one if I get a new one.  It has to put the image down edge to edge.  It has to freaking work.

So, our second build here–what we did differently:

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Our First Test of a Low-Cost, Home-Built Projected Table-Top

It’s all the rage and just started up as a fad… using projectors to cast an image onto a table top for the running of games like D&D (honestly, I’ve not heard of it used anywhere else, but it would be hugely useful for complex combat-oriented games like Dark Heresy as well).  I first saw this a few months ago and my first impression from the most common Google Search and links was “I bet we can do that”.

I felt comfortable putting in the effort to put together the well documented and talked about Projector Table-Top given how agreeable my group is to The Game being more important than any individual story in it.  I wouldn’t waste the effort or expense on a group that is going to fight change.  So if your group embraces change?  I recommend this for you.

Check it out…

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On Fighters & Fighting: Part Two

Expanding On Style

The previous post on Fighters talked about the perception of the class as boring, or bland, and attempted to provide a context that shows off how interesting should probably be. This post is going to take that a step further, and look at making sure that Fighters are as engaging when throwing down as they deserve to be.

We all want combat to be something other than a drag, and for the people who play Fighters to feel like they’re doing more than hitting the “do damage” button, but there’s no universal fix or simple solution that will work for all – or even most – of the groups out there.

There are as many different ways to give added style and flavor to combat as there are people running games, and it would be a fruitless effort to try and condense all the best advice into one small blog post. Another author on this site even gave some very good advice on how to introduce memorable elements to otherwise mundane combat.

It’s for that reason that I’m going to pick one small battle and give you some – hopefully – fun tools that are flexible enough to assist anyone looking for a little help on this front.

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On Fighters & Fighting: Part One

Fixing The Problem With Fighters

Let us begin by speaking hard truths: There is a problem with Fighters, and it’s not just the perennial concerns over how they balance against spell-casters in the long term.

It’s in the very way people think about them. If someone says that they are thinking of playing a Wizard or a Cleric or a Paladin? There are immediate implications about what type of person those characters might be and where they might come from, because even if a particular character has a non-standard origin we tend to imagine that it takes some particular training or mind-set to join those classes.

But to most people it seems that Fighter is at best just an unflavored description for a character who will be able to hit things, bring your own spice (“former soldier” “Samurai” “duelist”), and at worst describing someone who was too stupid to pursue a more demanding career.

Why? Many reasons, some of them having to do with the fact that Dungeons & Dragons has become something of its own fantasy subgenre, but the most obvious is that unless calling on a specific well-known tradition (like samurai) we don’t tend to understand or appreciate that the warriors & soldiers who inspired the class were as much dedicated experts in their craft as any scholar.

Which is not only unfair, but pretty boring.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

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Asking Why: How to Put PCs In a Tight Spot Without A Railroad

“Railroad” is a dirty word for many people who play roleplaying games.

From a wide-angle view its use probably just means that the person running the game and the player making the complaint haven’t been on the same page about what makes the game fun. It could be everything from the players rebelling against their controlling frustrated-novelist DM to a single player who balks at the fact that he can’t bail on the adventure that everyone sat down to play, and it wouldn’t have gotten to that point if everyone was on the same page.

A clash of expectations, then, and something that in many cases can be avoided with communication between or experience with the members of a group.

Specifically, though? It refers to the player experience of discovering that the world their character inhabits has hard, sometimes arbitrary-seeming, boundaries that they’re unable to overcome.

“The sword-fighter knows that there is no way he can win this fight.”

“You find yourself chained to the oar of a slave galley.”

“This prison has been your home for three months.”

“You can’t leave the city, the ways south are blocked.”

I can’t tell you how to get rid of railroading in your games, because what one group considers a wide open adventure might look like a straightjacket to the group that often ends up building strong relationships with random – previously unnamed – NPCs.

But I can share one trick that helps mitigate what I think is a major source of the “Railroad” accusation.

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Secret & Safe: A Look At Codes and Spies For Fantasy Games

The history of espionage, even in the Classical or Medieval or Renaissance periods that so frequently inspire elements of fantasy settings, is enormous and deep. It’s also probably filled with holes in information, because so many resources were probably destroyed or lost due to their covert nature.

So, if you plan to use spies and coded messages in your game, how can you turn those story elements into challenges or hooks for player characters?

Below are a few brief thoughts on the form that spies might take, along with notes on how they might be treated, and a few example methods for passing secret information that could be slipped into any game.

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