Sunday, July 30, 2023

This one's for all the aspiring Matt Mercers out there

This is the secret technique that you wouldn't find in "How I Run The Table." This one weird trick will supercharge your game and maximize player satisfaction. I call it...

The Family Guy-Style Cutaway Gag

All you Blades in the Dark fanboys can go blow yourselves, because flashbacks are for pussies. This is how real game masters spice up narrative flow. Allow me to teach it to you, if you can handle it.

Look at yourself. You're pathetic. You aren't funny. You're a gamer. But you're on the spot, your friends are waiting, and they expect to be entertained. How in all your hopeless ineptitude can you possibly make them laugh? Are you good at improv? Can you do impressions? Of course not. But all you need is your new best friend:

The rogue is probing the lock on the chest when he hears a sharp click. Family Guy-style cutaway to the elder lich watching you through his crystal ball at the center of the dungeon, saying to himself, "oh this is gunna be good."

Boom. Knocks em dead, every time. Instant laughter. Adulation. Dare I even say worship.

You want verisimilitude in your game? What better way to remind the players that the imagined world exists and lives independently of their PCs than by literally narrating as much.

You want character development? Worldbuilding? A threatening villain? Then interrupt your dumb players and tell them about it. Throw whatever scene at them you want, whenever you want.

You want your players to take a more active role in storytelling, filling out the world, and bringing it to life? I promise you, whether you like it or not, once you start using the Family Guy-style cutaway, your players will begin doing it too.

Now I cannot stress this enough: you have to verbally say "Family Guy-style cutaway" each time you use this technique. It's how you indicate to the players that you're doing it, so you can transition into the gag. If you don't, how will they know what the fuck is happening? Trust me, nobody ever gets used to this technique, probably because it's so refreshing and clever. So make sure you announce it because it can be difficult for your players to follow along if they aren't as smart as you.

I use the Family Guy-style cutaway gag every time I ever run a game, and also frequently in regular conversation and sometimes while I'm alone too. It's by far the most reliable way to maintain a smooth flow of play and active engagement from your players.

Better yet, make your players reveal their backstories exclusively through the use of comedically-timed Family Guy-style cutaways. They don't get to share it all up front. They have to wait for somebody to say, "Wait, you don't know how to swim?" so they can cutaway to some embarassing childhood experience where they got laughed out of the public pool. And if you aren't proactive enough, the other players will develop your character for you. "Wait, these NPCs all know your wife already?" Trust me, you don't want to wait and let the other players give that an explanation with their own cutaway gag.

Worried about splitting the party? Fret not. It's just an advanced application of the Family Guy-style cutaway technique. Jumping back and forth between two or more groups of players can and should always be paced according to comedic timing and situational irony.

If you really want to impress your players, you can level up your cutaways by breaking the fourth wall. Provide meta commentary on the action not by speaking out of character, but by employing a Family Guy-style cutaway in character which describes you and your players at the table, making an observation about the events in the game. That kind of self-referential layering of the experience is what people play D&D for.

This is, without exaggeration, the defining difference between true masters of the game and sad, bumbling, incoherent fools saddled with a responsibility far too great for their inaequate faculties of storytelling and drama.


Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Christmas Adventures

[What better time for such a post than July 5?]

Because I make Halloween adventures, I have often been asked, "are you going to make a Christmas adventure next?"

The short answer is no. But because I've been asked so many times, I've put a lot of thought into it. Here's my full answer.

The first and most important reason why I wouldn't is that I don't really like Christmas. Some years I'm in more of a "it's just not for me" mood, but other years I can get pretty Grinch-y. And so I wouldn't really be the right person for the job. I hope that anyone who reads or plays Tricks & Treats can tell that I fucking love Halloween. But if I'm correct and that shows through in the finished work, then surely my lack of love for Christmas would show in any attempt I make at a Christmas adventure. It deserves to be made by someone who has enough passion to do the task justice.

But I also have a weirder, less convincing reason why. A train of thought where I've talked myself into believing that, ackchyually, a Christmas adventure would be inherently inferior to a Halloween adventure for XYZ reasons!