11.29.2014

Announcing: The Exemplary Tome of Gadgets!


You've noticed we've been quiet for a while.

Well this time, we have a really good excuse!

Announcing: available internationally in paperback today, the Exemplary DM Podcast Presents: The Exemplary Tome of Gadgets!

UPDATE: Now Available on Kindle for just $4.00 or FREE if you buy the print edition!

It is available at special price of 4.99 with Amazon coupon code HOLIDAY30 until November 30, 2014 at 11:59pm PST. This special prices the book BELOW cost!  The book is currently onsale for US$6.75!

The normal price of US$7.50 - just above the cost to print - means this is a perfect stocking stuffer for your favorite RPG table runner.

Also a special offer - do you own/operate/frequent an exemplary local game store? We'd be happy to send - while supplies last - an introductory package of copies of the book FOR FREE. CreateSpace Direct Resellers can also purchase the book at significant discount.

From the creative loins of the voices behind the Exemplary DM podcast (exemplarydm.com) comes a 50-page pocket handbook of Adventure Hooks, Encounter Ideas, and Character Concepts for tabletop role playing games that you can bring to your table, tonight!

Each gadget comes with follow-up text on how this knowledge has been applied to real-life campaigns, giving you both conceptual and applied knowledge of the concept, as well as a surface large enough to act as a coaster for two (2) cold drinks!

Bargain priced and indexed for quick reference, this gift is a perfect stocking stuffer for the aspiring or experienced Dungeon Master in your life.

The plot twists, encounter ideas and NPC/PCs concepts inside are system-agnostic for easy adoption into any game system.

Our 6"x9" pocket-sized reference book, with table of context and keyword index, is perfectly proportioned for:
  • hiding behind your DM screen
  • fanning the flames of creativity
  • literally fanning real flames
  • soaking up your player's tears
  • soaking up your own tears
  • stopping bullets!*
  • holding pastries
  • wrapping fresh fish
  • scooping up dead insects
  • protecting your precious wooden table from condensation
  • softening the thunderous impacts of your critical hit rolls
  • recycling into cookbooks
  • padding uncomfortable seating surfaces
  • gifting to a player in your campaign when you've used every gadget and watching in horror as they realize every plot twist came from a book!
*Will not stop bullets. 

Published November 2014. 50 pages.

While the ExemplaryDM podcast is definitely Not Safe For Kids to listen to (as we say in the intro of every episode), the book is family-friendly.

Listen to the special announcement recording from author Chad and co-author William here! Right-click and Save-As below, or us the RSS feed built into this page.
Mirror 1 (196kbps) (Oregon US) (154.3mb)

You'll notice our new bumper music on this podcast, used with permission from Mississippi Bonescheck them out on bandcamp and iTunes. We used their song "Dungeon Hustle" on this episode, tell us what you think! Also check out the music lyrics video for Dungeon Hustle, which is what really turned us on to the band.  Once again big thanks to the Diablo String Orchestra for the intro music!

Check us out on iTunes and give us some reviews and/or ratings and/or hurtful criticism!

What do you think?

Welcome all our new listeners to the family of ExemplaryDM! Give us reviews in the comments below, hit us up on Twitter @ExemplaryDM where William tweets, or @Exemplary_Chad where Chad tweets, or shoot us an email at exemplary d m at gmail dot com.

9.21.2014

Season 3, Episode 8

We're back, and we're responding to your emails!

We love doing listener feedback episodes - it's like a handful (or in this case, eight) main topics in one engorged podcast member! We picked out the best top-quality emails then read through their amazing, insightful, hilarious and thought-provoking questions from our listeners. These emails represent the finest choice quality organic grass-fed cruelty free emails from our genetically-modified listenership. We then printed out and burned the other emails. They just weren't good enough!

In case you're new, our carefully-planned strategy involves releasing a podcast, making outrageous promises to future frequency, not recording as frequently as promised, having a baby, then recording a podcast. And we're glad to say that we're accomplished just that strategy before your very ears. We're catching up on several - and let's just leave it at that - months' worth of listener emails.

First we give our first pre-play takes on DND5e PHB, including another recommendation for Roll20.net, some talk about new DND5e character build and combat feel. Don't worry, we don't get too deep in to system-specific mechanics. What Chad likes the most about the new edition? A focus on non-combat mechanics and gameplay. Meanwhile, William liked the artwork but was terrified by this, even critics agree! Again, we restate that the game system mechanics shouldn't matter that much - if you're not having fun, it's probably not the game system, you're doing it wrong. Just keep rolling 20s like a '68 Impala.

Now onto the listener emails:
  1. First email from Joe from the UK talks about some of his own house rules dealing with action points (similar to how we use drama points), minions, escalation dice, monster level balancing. 
  2. Hunter writes in to subtly complain that Chad moved cross-country, then provokes advice on poor roleplaying and how to - as a player - respond to it at the table. Our advice:
    1. Lead by exemplary example, externalize your rationale for being a good role player, without being a passive aggressive dick about it.
    2. Remind fellow players that "we don't really know that" or "we can't have that conversation right now". Use speed and stress to tell a fellow player to make a call. "Did you really say that out loud?" But don't be a passive aggressive dick about it. 
    3. Refers to the other players in character name, encourage them to do the same, without being a passive aggressive dick about it.
  3. Blair writes in to contribute some of his buddy Jon's preposterous recurring disguises. They're like three ridiculous bonus character concepts that you'll never ever want to use, and we read them anyway!
  4. Michael #00-0000A1 wrote from England to tell us lies, a vignette idea, and how he used his vignette allowed him to organically and spontaneously insert an NPC into a vignette, brilliantly welding an NPC into a vignette on the spot. Pan the camera to a different area and you'll be surprised how well you might be able to tie new things together and create "ah ha!" moments. Bravo, Michael F., you most exemplary of all Michaels. Also, William continues to work through his inability to pronounce "benelovent" correctly.
    1. A link to Michael's map: http://dungeon-architect.tumblr.com/image/75315727444
    2. Here in the podcast is the second bump from new ExemplaryDM bumper band Mississippi Bones (used proudly with their permission via Twitter). And yes, you heard it right, they're singing about Dante's Inferno.
  5. Charles made a huge contribution with his Patriotic Delve idea, featuring PC's as U.S. Presidents (while writing us an email from Montreal):
    1. George Washington, the Paladin - devoted to the Goddess Freedom, Washington takes his two-handed axe (of cherry tree fame) from town to town, smiting any Redcoats who may be trying to impose the Quartering Act.
    2. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter - a rogue who uses his slender build to hide in the shadows. He fights with silver blades and shurikens, better to smite the undead rising around him.
    3. FDR, the Robo-Cleric - supported by his personal mech in lieu of his wheelchair, FDR is able to heal anyone... except for his own polio-ridden body. 
    4. George W. Bush, the Barbarian - He will presidenting the fuck outta this.
    5. Theodore Roosevelt, the Druid - Has a bull moose as his companion and wildshapes into The Teddy Bear. Of course he travels with a big stick, a quarterstaff enchanted to hit as if it were twice as large
    6. Harry Truman, the Radioactive Sorcerer - after years of nuclear exposure, Truman discovers he can shoot beams of acid and other mystical powers, but it's made his body frail.
    7. JFK, the Bard - this one, er, um, speaks for itself. The Marilyn Monroe feat alone has a 19 CHA prerequisite.
    8. Then Chad and William make a bunch of mostly forgettable jokes about other presidents, highlighted by Johnson's Johnson and a Strategic Defense Initiative aimed at minorities. At this point the podcast was completely off the rails, way to go Charles.
    9. Looking forward to hearing how this Delve went!
  6. Ethan (probably not from Ireland) greets us with a Top o the Morning and talks about his unofficial coronation as the DM of his group of newbies and used our podcast as a beginner's guide (perfect!).
    1. Ethan's knight concept for an NPC is both an adversary and ally at times for the PCs, with a dramatic plan for the end of the campaign where the knight's master - the main villain - forces this tragic knight to fight the PCs.
    2. Watch out that this Knight NPC doesn't become too central a figure or too dominant to the action of the game. A DM's pivotal NPC shouldn't be the show. 
    3. The PC's need to be the stars of the show, and shouldn't feel powerless compared to an NPC . Don't show off with how cool and powerful an NPC is. Don't make them feel they have to go along for the ride because they're hopelessly outclassed, that robs them of free will.  
  7. David writes in to comment more on his incorrect opinion about long-o "go-lem" vs the objective correct "gawl-lem" and Firefly.
    1. Then a cautionary tale about a PBPRPG game that went awry when players went too far off the rails.  It caused a lot of plot damage to be undone, players to have their feelings hurt, and soon enough, the game to die on the vine. Continuity was restored after a bad weekend of unmoderated player PBP moves, but at the cost of the game. The moral of Dave's story is that "yes, and" should sometimes give way to "yes, but". 
    2. Cliffhanging is an art, Dave says, and adds that he has always tried to give the PC's a non-trivial decision to make, and mentions author Greg Keyes.
    3. In-game games like Wasteland's Club Acapulco are classic especially between William and his brothers, though the game-breaking loot bag hack actually took away from the experience
  8. Finally, Josh sends us an audacious intrusion in royal tone from California, and with the appropriate amount of existential terror in reaching out to us via email. Pro. 
    1. His group attracts a lot of players who are new to tabletop RPG's and stuck in a video game mindset. How to work with those players?
    2. Which of course was a perfect time for William to interrupt with a video game story and praise for Dragon Age (2009). 
    3. Back on topic, this is a situation where again, you need your veteran players to be your allies at the table. Ask your veterans to externalize their processes when making decisions for their characters. Ask your veterans to justify out loud, just like on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Obviously, not every veteran player is exemplary in this way.
    4. Make sure you know the video game folks in your party aren't thinking mechanically - in terms of min/maxing, rules exploitation, optimal combination. Ask them to think and act non-numerically. There are no arbitrary guidelines about movement here, ask them to view the characters as people rather than avatars.
    5. But you do want to punish ridiculous, alignment-breaking behavior. A video game doesn't enforce inconsistent morality and won't object to acts of noble heroism followed by wanton acts of destruction or murder, but a tabletop will.
    6. Try to remind them that environments are way more interactive than they're used to. Put items in the environment and richly describe it, giving them the opportunity to think with them and be creative.
    7. Lastly, they're not going to succeed at everything that they try - make sure they understand that there will be consequences for their actions. They're welcome to dive into the lava pool, but they shouldn't be mad when they can't hit LOAD GAME. They can't be expected to walk into an NPC's home and take stuff, or maybe they shouldn't even be walking in there while people are present. 
Gadgets The Podcast For Use This Very Night:

Encounter: Use the roadside ambush to challenge the players tactically and diplomatically, and also use it to potentially introduce characters. We've all lost precious things to banditry, maybe this is an opportunity to regain something. Use the party's marching order to determine their positions at the start of the ambush, and put pressure on a party that is otherwise pretty good at positioning themselves in combat.

Character: We used the first of two emails from listener Andy here, the gnome tinkerer who falls in love with nature and becomes a druid with a badger mount. Sets up some interesting examinations of Intelligence vs Wisdom, gadgets vs nature, tradition vs desires.

Tee shirt:  World’s Best DM, for the DM who isn't already full of him/herself.

Adventure Hook: Encounter a geographically isolated town who residents are slowly being killed off by mysterious ghosts. Come to find out, the ghosts are souls of those who were murdered by the town’s founders hundreds of years ago. Lots you can do with this - why are the ghosts coming back now? Who is related (or is pretending to be related) to the wealthy but now cursed lineage of the founders? Are any of the PCs related to the founders, is it the arrival of the party that has triggered the attacks? This is basically the plot of the terrible 1980 horror film The Fog, recently remade even terriblyier.

Magical Item of the Podcast: The Paired Coin of Teleportation. How many of them do the PCs find? If just one, where is the other? If both, how could the PCs use them? How do the PCs figure out how they work?

Player Tip: Don’t be a dick by… Realizing that party unity, character development, cross-character plot intermingling, and common purpose-building is everyone’s job in the party, not just DM's. Players who intentionally buck this by playing the silent loner, the antisocial outsider or the anarchist character could be a problem.

DM Tip: We use another email from Andy, subject line “large-scale combat with your party.” Recaps the idea of mass group combat without rolling tons of attacks. Here's also an opportunity for leader classes perhaps to assist to move mass combat die rolls, have the players (or maybe just the leaders?) roll the dice to determine the random outcomes of the other scrums, in order to enable them to feel in control and have some transparency and honesty (and therefore real danger). What if the battle goes badly for the good guys? And be prepared as DM for either outcome.

You'll notice some new bumper music on this podcast, used with permission from Mississippi Bones, check them out on bandcamp and iTunes. We used their songs "The Leopard, the Lion & the She-Wolf", "Full Moon Rising" and "Dungeon Hustle" (in its entirety) on this episode, tell us what you think! Also check out the music lyrics video for Dungeon Hustle, which is what really turned us on to the band.  Once again big thanks to the Diablo String OrchestraThe Kobolds, our listener Chuck for the intro to the gadgets of the podcast jam, and mega-fan Joshua Bentley for many voice-overs (@voiceofthebigjb).  

Right-click and Save-As below, or us the RSS feed built into this page.
Mirror 1 (196kbps) (Oregon US) (154.3mb)
Mirror 2 (196kbps) (Atlanta US) (154.3mb)

Check us out on iTunes and give us some reviews and/or ratings and/or hurtful criticism!

What do you think?

Welcome all our new listeners to the family of ExemplaryDM! Give us reviews in the comments below, hit us up on Twitter @ExemplaryDM where William tweets, or @Exemplary_Chad where Chad tweets, or shoot us an email at exemplary d m at gmail dot com.

6.03.2014

Summer Is Coming

To avoid having our blog go one whole trimester without a post, William here with a friendly hello.

Yes, we're still alive. In fact, there's more of us! Speaking of trimesters, Chad is now officially a geek dad, not just a geek. Please join me in congratulating him via twitter at @Exemplary_Chad or email!

Unlike Oberyn Martell, we haven't lost..... sight?... of our goals. (too soon?)

So yes, the podcast is still alive.

Exemplary Chad and his Exemplary Childbirther are still in the hallucinatory sleep-deprived throes of infant-rearing, and that's honestly the best excuse we've had for a slow podcasting schedule since the great Mike N Ikes shortage of aught-13, or the tree-smashed-house-in-hurricane bit we tried from aught-12. (One of those two things actually happened and it was terrible.)

Meanwhile, please enjoy our back catalog of podcasts, keep firing your emails and tweets at us (people are still talking about Chamberlain). Our next episode will be a Listener Feedback episode to play catchup and we've already written out the content for S3E9, so how about that?

Plus, if you follow closely, you might find Chad, Ian, Hunter and I playing our online DND campaign via Roll20.net and streaming it and other games on Twitch. You can even watch our live recordings of our last three online campaign sessions here.

Keep in touch, talk at you soon!

-w

3.06.2014

Season 3, Episode 7

"Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?" ... "Of course."

It's the Etiquette Episode of ExemplaryDM Podcast! It's a bit of a spiritual successor and followup to the beloved Player Penetration episode from Season 2, Episode 7. This is also an extension from our Player Tip of the podcast from Season 3, Episode 6, Part Two.

In this podcast we open to discussion good and bad manners for DM's and players at the table, with some great ideas on how to improve and smooth out behavior at your gaming table. We briefly discussed such behavior in our previous podcast's Player Tip of the Podcast, but found so much more content, we decided to dedicate an entire episode to it.

First, a trio of emails to cover:
  1. "Effusive praise from Michael, monster design"... from Andy
    1. Do we fudge monster stats? Yes. Do we try to make it fun? Yes. 
    2. Fast paced, dynamic combat is what most players tend to prefer. Higher damage, lower HP.
    3. Remember that combat is not just about monsters, but about environment, hazards, terrain, and plot.
    4. How tactically smart are your monsters supposed to be? Low intelligence creatures shouldn't necessarily be tactical warfare geniuses. You as the DM know better than to provoke that opportunity attack, but your monsters don't.
  2. A Michael Sponsored Email from Michael of Michaelton to be read in a British accent 
    1. Podcast.
    2. Foreshadowing to the gadgets...
  3. Exemplary Local Game Stores recommendations from Erns.
    • A reminder that we mostly play D&D4e, but we try not to be system-specific, and we're big proponents of adding rules to your game that seem to be lacking, especially the ones we come up with. In conclusion, if you're not having fun playing D&D, it isn't the rules system. 
  4. Hey-oooo!
When sharing this podcast, please remember our regular Player Tip of the Podcast: don't be a dick. Seriously. Take it EZ on the Pass Aggro if given the opportunity.

Discussion Points for D&D Table Etiquette:
  1. The first rule of table etiquette for players: “Be ready”
    1. When in combat, when it is your turn, be ready to go.
    2. Umbrella term for the rest of these.
  2. BRING YOUR SHIT TO THE TABLE 
    1. Dice and UP-TO-DATE character sheet. 
    2. James, William's Pathfinder DM: I personally get very frustrated with people showing up to the game with a "Give me everything I need so that you can entertain me" Wastes so much time and really is just the wrong attitude for players to have. As a DM, make that known.
  3. Note  about tangents: http://skarr.obsidianportal.com/wikis/house-rules this puts the whole table in charge of being responsible for a productive night, removing the DM vs players for attention span relationship. 
    1. Everyone is responsible for keeping us on track, not just the DM. A sense of ownership makes people care.
  4. James: For me the biggest issue is being ready when your initiative comes around.  I really dislike having to rouse someone from their phone because its their turn and they go "Okay, what's going on?" Or Twitter, Flappy Birds, FriendFace, etc. For me, if you are at the table, you should be paying attention.  Have the courtesy to bow out temporarily if you need, but when you are there, be present.
    1. Especially if you're in a healing/buff mode in combat.
    2. Should the DM keep track of PC hit points?
  5. Veteran player on new player relationships - There is also a very fine line between suggesting good options to newer players, and browbeating them to perform the actions to set up your character in combat for example. It is very easy to be misunderstood there, as a veteran player. As a DM, you do want that veteran, experienced ally at the table, but be aware of his or her interactions with n00bs, because it is a reflection on you as the DM. 
    1. Make sure your veteran players are using the phrase "one possible action" "you may want to consider" or not “the only smart move is to do this” or “you’d be an idiot not to…”. 
    2. Make sure you or your veteran players are explaining why something would be good, but without “mansplaining” it or belittling new players. Just to emphasize that it is their decision... empower them
    3. This is also very relevant for the DM to player relationship. Don't be an overbearing or judgmental DM. Avoid the sarcastic "really." Make sure you're being kind, keep the choice in their hands. 
    4. Be patient, and be more patient to someone who is trying, as opposed to caring.
  6. Body odor. If you’re going to have the hygiene of an old west prostitute, Give it a whore’s bath or a spritz of lemon water before stepping back out into the saloon between tricks. Seriously though, you will be sitting next to multiple other humans for a few hours, don’t be nose deaf.
    1. It is a very difficult conversation to have with a friend to tell them that they reek
    2. If for example you came to D&D right after performing analingus on an asparagus farmer, use some mouthwash first. 
  7. Some foods and drinks are not table-friendly, some are.
    1. No messy BBQ. 
    2. No corn nuts
    3. No easily tippable cups
    4. But also, keep in mind that if you’re planning on cooking during the early phase of a D&D session, that you are careful not to use blenders, slapchops, pressure cookers, food processors, deep fryers, espresso machines, live animals, or anything else that would be loud and fool the DM into thinking that you’re not listening to his carefully prepared environment descriptions. Smoothies are delicious, but not for making during D&D.
    5. Be aware of dietary restrictions, whether they be choices or allergies.
    6. Good Southern table etiquette things like slurping, gulping, chewing with mouth open... Be aware of the noises you create while masticating.
  8. As the host, make sure you have shit taken care of, get a sitter: a dog sitter, cat sitter, toddlersitter, grandma sitter, little brother/sister sitter, bird sitter, whatever it is that is co-habitating with your house that is determined to be a dick during your campaign. 
  9. Good etiquette to meet each player as they enter, never been a fan of the "we're in the basement, just let yourself in", which is rather creepy and also the plot intro to several pornographic films. Greeting people at the door is a proper way to be like the guys on Cheers.
  10. Again, the #1 rule of D&D etiquette - be ready. Get your shit together, as a DM or Player.

Gadgets of This Very Night  Podcast:

EncounterGame within a game: Legend of Legaia, Chronotrigger and every JRPG.  Caravan from Fallout: New Vegas. Poker in FarCry 3. BioShock pipefitting minigame. Horrible Mass Effect minigames. Quidditch in Harry Potter. Used occasionally, or maybe just once. Bond played Baccarat. Then, make the PCs do something else while playing. A great way to make the players feel like the characters do in a tense encounter.

Character Concept: Gizmo the Warforged (robot) Artificer, a battle-scarred robot who creates gadgets and seeks to avoid melee combat.


Adventure Hook: Focus on the plot impetus of the Encounter of the Podcast, for example: a side quest to talk to someone, who never would talk to a stranger… unless it was at the game-within-the-gaming table. A mission to coolly infiltrate and blend into the game environment and make contact with someone, rat out someone, seduce someone, or convince someone that a rumor is true or isn’t true. "It's only true... if you beat me at this game..." Your campaign world does not have to include a casino in order to get players to play games.

Magical Item of the Podcast: Ebony Fly - practical, but giant horrifying transportation. Specifically from some D&D source material, but useful when you want to force the PC's to choose between beneficial logistics and horrifying the normals. They have to use it stealthy, discretely and infrequently, lest they be associated with it. Like the floating space poop in Star Trek IV. Nobody wanted to be associated with it.

Player Tip:  Don’t be a dick … and you can avoid dickitude by… listening to this podcast. Use it to open up a dialogue and potentially start the conversation on player etiquette at your table, including but not limited to, a very passive aggressive to point someone’s behavioral flaws at the table. Just Kidding of course, don’t be passive aggressive.

DM Tip: Top 11 Game AIDS as per request from listener Michael F.
  1. Status markers - W: signature flags, C: bottle top rings, also: magnetic bases
  2. Turn keepers - W: notecards for initiative, C: dry erase
  3. DM Screen (for cheating!)  Personalize this with landscape images of your terrain currently, etc. 
  4. Camera (for interrupted sessions) 
  5. Overland map
  6. NPC names list
    • NPC profiles list 
  7. Micro - That night's session notes, including notes from previous sessions. Who is carrying what? Who said what?
  8. Macro - Keep overarching plot points up to date in a reference doc somewhere, so you can keep track of important details.
  9. Project Blocks (from your local hobby store) foam bricks for making structures. W posted a build thread for something and have posted pics in the past of large, light, easy to build structures. As far as terrain goes, there are many options and probably another podcast’s worth, but the idea would be to try and use different ones as much as possible. 
  10. Food, for focus, attention occupation and energy. Mike n Ikes, especially. 
  11. BONUS: A podcast to give you gadgets and ideas to help break your writer’s block or give you inspiration for new twis ts and turns etc. Like this one?
Big Thanks for music, once again big thanks to the Diablo String OrchestraThe Kobolds, our listener Chuck for the intro to the gadgets of the podcast jam, and mega-fan Joshua Bentley for voice-overs galore (@voiceofthebigjb).

Right-click and Save-As below, or us the RSS feed built into this page.
Mirror 1 (128kbps) (Oregon US) (83.9mb)
Mirror 2 (128kbps) (Atlanta US) (83.9mb)

Check us out on iTunes and give us some reviews and/or ratings and/or hurtful criticism!

What do you think?

Welcome all our new listeners to the family of ExemplaryDM! Give us reviews in the comments below, hit us up on Twitter @ExemplaryDM, or shoot us an email at exemplary d m at gmail dot com.

3.02.2014

Live Streaming Online D&D?

TL;DR: Would you watch us play virtual tabletop D&D live?

Today, four of us gathered on Skype and Roll20.net for our first session of online virtual tabletop D&D. Loyal listeners will recognize that this was a necessary evolution of our gaming, as Chad (the more handsome of your exemplary hosts) moved across the country. Even our optimistic hopes  for this remote gaming session were exceeded. It was a goddamned blast. How many times did one of us say, "This is really a lot of fun"? A shitload of times, that's how many.

William was the DM, and Chad, Ian (our podcast co-host from Season 1) and Hunter (who has played IRL with us many times) kicked off a new campaign in William's existing campaign setting.

Roll20.net, if you haven't heard of it, is amazing. We've tried virtual stuff before -- from online tabletop platforms like RPTools' MapTool to Skype + webcams. Roll20 blew it all out of the water. So easy.

As the DM, William needed only a couple hours to whip up maps and assets for a complicated prison escape -- more than what is realistic for a veteran DM to put together on his own dinner table, but not by much. As players, Chad and his cohorts took brief moments (maybe 15 minutes?) to set up their tokens and a couple of macros. We learned a lot as we went along, with a dozen "AH HA!" moments as we picked up on the highly intuitive interface. So easy.

As a DM in roll20, it is super easy to search inside the app for token, graphic, even audio assets, and immediately add them to the game. Even when Ian found a suggestion for how his sword would look, William was able to quickly upload the image to the game and place it on a table, label and all. So easy.

While we were playing, Hunter started broadcasting us using XSplit and Twitch. Like we wrote on Twitter earlier today, out of the blue, four people joined the stream and started interacting with us. (Hunter was a popular League of Legends streamer once upon a time.)
7hawk77 (Hunter): Campaign just started, we were recording the videos just to have but we might be increasing stream quality/webcams/whatever if people would be interested in it
Goldpublic: It is presently good quality compared to a lot of twitch d&d streams. Adding player cams, either way, it's good as is with voice & map but faces would be good too
7hawk77: thanks for the feedback, yeah we will work on that. Streaming the campaign was just an afterthought so I think we will have to wait till the next time for webcams
Then, our anonymous online viewers helped us out in our first session with moving from one map to another. TECH SUPPORT FTW.
Staypufty: You gotta drag the player flag from one map to another. 
7hawk77: Thanks  
Staypufty: Nah, enjoying the stream. I use roll20 to DM for a group.
Yeah, we got it figured out.
Goldpublic: success
» good 1st game session, fun listen, enjoyed the personalities and PC's
7hawk77: Yeah, thanks for tuning in. Hopefully we will be streaming once a week
Goldpublic: will look up your podcast
We honestly had no idea there was an instant anonymous audience for livestreaming this, but, by its very nature, the online virtual tabletop lends itself to much easier viewing than webcam-based viewing of real tables.

Like Hunter (7hawk77) said online, we do hope to do this weekly. The plan now is to take advantage of our usually super-lazy Sundays. With 7hawk77 acting as our public relations spokesman on Twitch -- as well as playing the satyr bard Sedris -- is it worth the effort and exposure of live broadcasting our online D&D sessions? We think so; now we're just waiting for you to agree with us.

Would you watch us play virtual tabletop D&D live?

Disclaimer: We are in no way affiliated with roll20.net, its creators, or its development. We have not been paid to endorse this product (though we would happily accept their money if they offered it). This is unsolicited customer feedback. Also, it is a fucking awesome product that we enjoyed tremendously. Give them money so we can do more things with it. Or just give us money. Either way, if you've got money lying around, we want in on that.

1.31.2014

Season 3, Episode 6 - The Cliffhanger Episode, Part Two

And now, the conclusion...

This is Part Two of the Exemplary DM's oh-so-meta two-part Cliffhanger Episode!

How can you as a Dungeon Master take advantage of the dramatic mechanic of the cliffhanger in your campaign tonight? How can you avoid disappointment while preparing for excellence when setting your players up to maximum anticipation?

This episode contains items six through ten of our very own tips for pulling off a Cliffhanger in your D&D session tonight!
  1. Bad cliffhangers may do one of these:
    1. Change the genre.
    2. Send the heroes back to medieval Japan.
    3. Introduce an unprepared-for permanent change.
    4. Bring back someone the players are already fucking sick and tired of, or a villain they literally just killed.
      1. Like Harry Potter. 
    5. Cheat. 
    6. Have Patrick Duffy walk into a shower
    7. Sorry, your princess is in another castle.
    8. Railroad the players into a scripted action or reaction that they probably would not have otherwise done, robbing them of a decision.
    9. Remember, a cliffhanger is supposed to prepare the party for action, not spoil any action. You don't want to rip control away from players.  
  2. Tailor the cliffhanger to each one of your characters. End of William's last game session, in which he cliffhangered each of the PC’s. The players, who are underground hunting Drow, are traveling through a tunnel to find themselves overlooking a breeding ground for the spider queen spider’s.
      1. Two of the players notice that the prize artifact of their tribe, missing for years, is embedded in the boss spider’s head, serving as its power source.
      2. One of the players sees a figure across the room on the far wall, hiding in the shadows, and upon catching a glimpse of her face, realizes it is his long lost love interest.
      3. Another player receives a foreboding warning from her sentient artifact.
      4. And the final player’s sight returns before the battle, just in time for him to open a long lost letter from his time travelling girlfriend, which contains a heart breaking goodbye and a character backstory-referencing warning... oooOOOOOoooohhhh....
  3. Now remember, ending a session on a cliffhanger is going to give the players lots of time to think about their reaction. When you reconvene, have your prep work done and your “yes, and” face on, because they may decide to go in a different direction from the one you were hoping. Be willing to be flexible enough to allow them to react.
  4. Use a cliffhanger at the beginning of the campaign, which changes the world and shocks the players, much like what happened at the beginning of the new JJ Abrams Star Trek movie, where Kirk’s dad dies. 
    1. Or similarly, when you use a cliffhanger at the end of a vignette, the PC’s can discover the resolution of later on. This is pretty much the default use of a vignette.
  5. A cliffhanger is not something to be overused, because it can have some negative effects.
    1. For example, a cliffhanger can also be a big disappointment if on the return trip, you cheap out and “nerf” the action. (Have Patrick Duffy step out of the shower and say it was all a dream.) No Deus Ex Machina resolutions to your suspenseful conflict, such as Lord of the Rings Eagles sweeping all the dwarves away to safety, unless that was somehow set up or cool for other reasons.
    2. If you’re afraid of how everybody is going to react, find a way to incorporate your post-cliffhanger goodness without letting them off easy or unrealistically defusing the danger. Put your "yes, and" face on, but don't let it destroy your tension or session. There's a balance. 
    3. Don't be afraid to ask for a five minute break.
    4. Don’t hit them too hard, too brutally, too fatal. 
      1. For example, at the end of Star Trek II, the Wrath of Khan. Spock’s dead, they have a funeral, “the most… human.” In the original version of the movie, it ended right there. The test audience reacted very negatively, it was too depressing. They revised the end of the movie to allow for the glimmer of hope that Spock's torpedo pod landed safely on Genesis.
Gadgets of the Podcast:

Encounter: The Rising Tide - in Christy’s campaign, we dropped into an underground tunnel system and found the water rising. We knew only the encounter with an evil force would stop the tides from rising unnaturally. There are lots of ways you can use a "timer" mechanic like this.

Character Concept: Grim Harding, the Pathfinder ninja assassin build and a master of stealth, unarmed combat and disguises, and friend to our previous concept submitted by Blair, Oni. A Casey at the Bat version of the ninja. Jon, Blair's friend, sent us a minifesto. From Jon: for the player in every DM, try the Dana Carvey Master of Disguise.

Tee Shirt: D&D Character (Pretty Girl) T-shirt from Zazzle courtesy of Christine, just in time for Valentine's Day.

Adventure Hook: The Mysterious Gift - the unexpected weapon/artifact/gadget that turns out to be a trick. Just be sure to give the players something for their eventual trouble. The cursed ring of inconvenient flatulence old school cursed item stuff. Perhaps it sends them on a quest for a cure/removal. 

Magical Item of the Podcast: The Geiger Counter/canary in West Virginia/Sting from The Hobbit - or your genre’s similarly-functioning invisible hazard warning device. Greg’s three-dimensional compass portal finder from Chad's current campaign, something to detect the rifts between planes.

Player Tip:  Don’t be a dick … and you can avoid dickitu.de by… not forgetting your table your table etiquette. Lapses in D&D table etiquette could include - reading your phone, reading books on your phone, making a mess (equivalent of spilling the pot in poker), doing annoying things with fingernails, breaking people’s things especially the host, drinking loudly, eating loudly, eating smelly stuff, living up to the template of Jerk, Douche, Idiot, and Loser (from season 1, episode 3), doing annoying things with toenails. One rule we always had growing up was that no player was never allowed to lie down, especially if you’re sleepy, because you're going to fall asleep. 

DM Tip: Moons, Stars, Celestial Bodies, Calendars - 
  • Civ V uses the Mayan calendar instead of the BC/AD calendar when you play that civ. 
  • In Forgotten Realms, the moons had a mechanic for spellcasting. 
  • Not to mention lycanthrophy, full moon or new moon effects. Also, lighting effects can be significantly different at night in open terrain with or without a moon.
  • Stardate 91605.27” Few people can do that translation in their head, but that’s not important. It’s the very nature of the number that tells us the people in this story are more scientific and scientificker than we are. (That, and the spaceship.)
  • From the beginning of the Gamma World 4e book: “The year is now 2162 (or 151, or 32,173, or Six Monkey Slap-Slap, depending on your point of view). It's been a hundred and fifty years since the Big Mistake, and the Earth is a very different place.”
  • Googled this link to various D&D Calendar systems: http://home.earthlink.net/~duanevp/dnd/calendars.htm
Big Thanks for music, once again big thanks to the Diablo String OrchestraThe Kobolds, our listener Chuck for the intro to the gadgets of the podcast jam, and mega-fan Joshua Bentley for voice-overs galore (@voiceofthebigjb).

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1.24.2014

Season 3, Episode 6 - The Cliffhanger Episode, Part One

How can you as a Dungeon Master take advantage of the dramatic mechanic of the cliffhanger in your campaign tonight? How can you avoid disappointment while preparing for excellence when setting your players up to maximum anticipation?

Are you sitting at the edge of your ear seats?

Because we're about to drop a cliffhanger on you. And no, Sylvester Stallone is not involved.

We recorded so much content about cliffhangers that we couldn't resist the oh-so-meta urge to split one ginormous cliffhanger episode into more than one episode about ... dun dun dunnnnn ... cliffhanger endings to your campaign sessions!

But first ... dun dun dunnnn... we read some emails!
  • from William: Wulfgar's real life manifesto of war
  • Tweet from @rzrstrm: with a recommendation for Game Night Games in Salt Lake
  • from Robert: EDM stuff and validation of William's Wayne's World reference
  • from Blair: Hey Exemplary DM!
    • Who can recommend online Pathfinder char generation tools?
    • In which we discussed Zero Charisma.
  • Twitter convo about winter from the sprawling metropolis of Rochester, MN, as a preview of the stuff we discuss on twitter, aside from funny dnd quips.
  • from the wife : i can haz moar podcast?
    • Skill challenges should be well described, not just math, a "choose your own adventure"
    • The side conversations and camaraderie during long journeys and uneventful time 
  • from adam: re: Thoughts on a horror campaign? 
  • from andy: DM appreciation
    • picking up the torch
    • thanks Andy for warming our cockles 
Top 10 Tips to Implementing Cliffhangers
  1. At the end of your next D&D session, pull an old trick from: the end of every Dan Brown chapter, the end of Star Trek:TNG The Best Of Both Worlds Pt. 1, the end of Christopher Nolan’s Inception and all three of his Batman films, the final episode of Twin Peaks, the end of X- Men II, the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the Back to the Future movies, the end of Matrix Reloaded, the end of the first Kill Bill, the end of the first season of Jericho, the end of the patched version of Portal 1 which came out right before Portal 2, the end of the old BBC show Blake’s 7, the end of Half Life 2, the end of Mass Effect 2, the last episode before the break in the middle of The Walking Dead season three, end of the Sopranos, the end of every season of Lost, the every episode of 24 or really right before the commercial break of any action prime time action television show, and of course, that movie Cliffhanger (with Stallone and Merle from The Walking Dead).
  2. Why do they use cliffhangers? The Zeigarnik Effect (Ignore the cat in the background. It isn't a cliffhanging cat. Yet.)
  3. What we’re trying to do here is create a memorable anticipation for the next game session. So like the end of Inception, you really want to know the ending, but unlike Inception, you really want to resolve the action in the next campaign but more importantly - make your characters look forward to it.
  4. Cliffhangers require setup in order to connect you to the suspense and the new danger or intrigue that has been introduced and left in the balance. This is where you planning capabilities as a DM come into play. (But don't railroad!)
  5. Good cliffhangers do one or more of the following:
    1. Reference character backstory
    2. Change the timing of a well thought out plan
    3. Provide new and sudden inspiration
    4. Place one or more loved ones in mortal danger
    5. Reveal a terrible betrayal
    6. Pervert the ending to an otherwise innocent quest (but in a fun way)
    7. Renew an old love, hatred, stress, fear or desire
    8. Introduce a new villain or ally, or change an ally to a villain or villain to any ally
    9. Change the weather, stars above, lightning, atmosphere or tone, or height of the flame of the candle
    10. Encourage discussion or wonderment about what’s about to happen away from the table
    11. Let something happen that everyone has wanted to happen for a long time happen, then make them wait for the next session to see the aftermath. 
      • W's wife pointed out, in Friends, when Ross and Rachel kissed, everyone wanted to know well what happens next.
      • Say the players finally are made members of the Thieves’ Guild, and you end the session there. They’ll want to play the next session now that they’ve entered the state they wanted to be in for such a long time.
      • Give them a new level (and therefore abilities/feats/stats) or a new item, then let the anticipation simmer.
  6. ... dun dun dunnnn...
Season 3, Episode 6, Part Two will be the conclusion of The Cliffhanger Episode... 

Big Thanks for music, once again big thanks to the Diablo String OrchestraThe Kobolds, our listener Chuck for the intro to the gadgets of the podcast jam, and mega-fan Joshua Bentley for voice-overs galore (@voiceofthebigjb).

Right-click and Save-As below, or use the RSS feed built into this page.
Mirror 1 (128kbps) (Oregon US) (42mb)

Check us out on iTunes and give us some reviews and/or ratings and/or hurtful criticism!

What do you think?

Welcome all our new listeners to the family of ExemplaryDM! Give us reviews in the comments below, hit us up on Twitter @ExemplaryDM, or shoot us an email at exemplary d m at gmail dot com.