Things you need for a Tabletop RPG (for the PC players)

Buyetyen

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That was just a random example. DMs are as capable of making mistakes as players. The question is if they made an unintentional mistake, or have they purposefully modified something? A private message addresses the former without stepping all over the latter in front of everybody else and wasting time.
My groups just have a house rule that if the GM screwed up a rules call earlier and we're just now realizing it, then that was the rule for that one instance. Moving on. My players are generally very story oriented, so they're more interested in keeping the plot going than staying perfectly in sync with the mechanics. Which works for me.

I've been doing sessions over Discord the last few months for obvious reasons, but at a table I never took to using a laptop. I prefer to go analog. If for no other reason than you can drop a notebook on the floor and it will still work.
 

Saint of M

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My player handbook quote might also depend on the game. Like I said for my reasoning, its there are some things you need to look up. Sometimes its to find an answer (or to see if the GM or another PC isn't bull shitting you), and other times you don't write down what all your abilities (feats, skills, spells, class abilities and the like) do, or there is something that doesn't come up often so you don't know about it.

Especially since alot of classes get complicated past the third level.

Also if you are going to make a new charecter, you are going to need the basics of what they do and where their gear is and you may not have it memories what stuff does if you are going for something different.
 

Schadrach

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A workaround I've found, particularly if you have a (legitimately-purchased) PDF copy of a PHB is to print out the applicable pages (generally the class pages) and create a typed-out (or screen-shot) "spellbook" so you have a handy reference rather than having to memorize sometime intricate spells (it also helps for rule refereeing to have the text in front of you).
I use a program called Hero Lab when I'm building characters in Pathfinder (whether GM or player). It makes it trivial to "play" with possible character choices, and more importantly to what I'm replying to it has an option to print full descriptions for feats, spells and the like that that specific character has. I've loved that feature so much that when building a character for a system I don't have a similar tool for I will either crop pages from the book if in PDF or retype the full descriptions, because that saves so much time during play. Especially for anything with very specific or fiddly details.

Like a build for a 3E character I'd once concocted - basically he was a sorcerer who had been orphaned as a small child and raised as a temple brat - he burned with zealous devotion to Kossuth the fire lord but also chafed under the structure of the religion. Sorcerer, heavily fire focused, and I'd worked out exactly how close to a cleric you could get using only arcane casting. It was an extremely fiddly and weird build, and had a lot of class features that needed sidebars and errata related to how exactly they functioned when used by someone who was not a divine caster. Largely because by the end it had domains and turning, but only cast as a sorcerer. Invested heavily in Knowledge (Religion) (which was a class skill because of a feat), took Leadership, and was building a cult.

Because unless you are talking about a jerk GM who is doing something like giving a God Tier nuke spell to a level 1 goblin mystic, just to nuke the party (which would justify a WTF Dude?! reaction),
There's a creature in a certain large prewritten campaign/dungeon crawl module I have a copy of on my shelf that can be accurately described as "a very nonstandard mimic that prefers to take the form of a toilet seat and is functionally unkillable", it's 5e conversion is resistant to most forms of damage and has advantage on all saves versus spells or magical effects and is immune to almost all negative conditions, and gets a new body and comes back to life after 24 hours if it dies. It's also not hugely interested in fighting the party, maybe just eating any convenient loose objects they might be carrying or wielding. It's basically an unstoppable nuisance, but the module notes that if the players just refuse to try to disengage or escape...well, that's on them. Better to just get away - it's not quick and it's not terribly persistent.

1. A handful of NPC's of various utility, that can be brought out as needed when your PC's invariably go off on a tangent. Like 2-3 of each type (soldier, information person, driver/pilot, etc) with standard, average stats, a name, and a single paragraph of personality details that you can use to quickly embody them when talking to the party.

2. A handful of locations for above mentioned NPC's to inhabit. Nothing major, but like, a single room tavern/bar, maybe a back alley or something. A convenience store, public library, brothel, Apple smart store, restaurant, strip club (probably get a lot of mileage from that one) etc. Have a few isolated locations in a folder, handy and ready to go, if they decide to make their own plot hooks and go running off.
This can be super handy, especially if you aren't good at generating descriptions of places and people on the fly. To be fair, most of the time for filler NPCs like that you can get away with just pulling 1-3 random descriptors out of your head and running with it. Most of them will never be seen again, and if they go back to the same one more than twice...ever...then you can flesh them out further beyond the minimum to withstand a goal oriented conversation. I just expect to do that because you never know when your players are suddenly going to decide they need to find a dwarven cooper who dabbles in beekeeping (because they've suddenly decided they want custom barrels of sufficient quality to be made magical made for possibly magical honey because they've decided they want to experiment with enchanting bees for some godforsaken reason) or something else similarly odd and specific.
 

happyninja42

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This can be super handy, especially if you aren't good at generating descriptions of places and people on the fly. To be fair, most of the time for filler NPCs like that you can get away with just pulling 1-3 random descriptors out of your head and running with it. Most of them will never be seen again, and if they go back to the same one more than twice...ever...then you can flesh them out further beyond the minimum to withstand a goal oriented conversation. I just expect to do that because you never know when your players are suddenly going to decide they need to find a dwarven cooper who dabbles in beekeeping (because they've suddenly decided they want custom barrels of sufficient quality to be made magical made for possibly magical honey because they've decided they want to experiment with enchanting bees for some godforsaken reason) or something else similarly odd and specific.
Yeah odds are good that you won't have a need for that same NPC beyond the one use, but it's not unheard of for an NPC to become embroiled in the PC's adventures on a long term basis. For whatever reason your players just like the NPC, and decide they want to help him and protect him, and things just end up with the NPC on the starship with the rest of the group. So it's a good idea to have at least a basic idea of the NPC's personality/motivations if that happens.

I mainly mean have a selection of ideas so that if you need "Jaded, Seen-It-All Bartender" for a cantina scene, you've got a few rough templates to play with, like just the basics, race, gender, age, signature physical traits, etc.
 

Schadrach

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but it's not unheard of for an NPC to become embroiled in the PC's adventures on a long term basis.
Yep. Like I said, my general rule is that if the PCs intend to encounter an NPC more than twice ever I give it a full writeup, but mine tend to have a bad habit of looking for weirdly specific things that I'd need a binder the size of the Encyclopedia Brittanica to have enough prepared NPCs (even rough templates) to cover the spectrum. I've gotten good at just creating them off the cuff, and noting what they were in case the players ever come back to them.

First meeting is an ass pull, second meeting is from a short note taken from first meeting, third and later meetings have a full writeup available if needed.

For your example, my players might decide they want to duck into a bar somewhere I hadn't fully planned out, and I'd spend about 10 seconds to come up with, say, female half-orc with a slight limp, middle aged and if asked she won the bar in a duel against the former owner back when she was in her prime. Talks about her not exactly legal, not exactly friendly past with rose colored glasses and will readily go on about how she robbed this, mugged them, or stabbed whoever if asked. Any given story may or may not be true, and if talked to long enough her tales will begin to contradict each other. Weirdly, she seems to believe them all and any attempt to determine if she is telling the truth about a given story fails outright. Arguing with her about the contradictions will leave her convinced you're remembering it wrong, and just makes her angry. While I'm generating her in my mind, I'm describing the general part of town and the location of the bar and layout of it's interior as they walk in. That descriptive chatter buys me the time to think her through.

While they're doing bar stuff, I write that down. If they go back to this specific bar again, I'll use the notes and do a more complete writeup between sessions, including more details of her personal life, the economics and clientele of the bar, and why she seems weirdly immune to attempts to determine the truth of her tales.
 

happyninja42

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For your example, my players might decide they want to duck into a bar somewhere I hadn't fully planned out, and I'd spend about 10 seconds to come up with, say, female half-orc with a slight limp, middle aged and if asked she won the bar in a duel against the former owner back when she was in her prime.
Right, but honestly my tip isn't really directed at GM's that are quick on their feet and good at improvising. It's more for GM's like my 2 friends that I play with, who are methodical plodders, and get REALLY derailed if you toss something at them spur of the moment. So for that type of GM, I think it's really good to just prep that kind of "improv" stuff. Because while you and I can come up with a female orc name Jethall Longtusk, 3rd of her family line, ex-caravan guard turned tavern owner in 10 seconds of contemplation, not everyone can. BUT, they might think of Jethall Longtusk while in the shower on a tuesday, and then just go jot it down in their Prepbook for later use. And then realize "hey, that little kobold bard I made last month would fit in nicely here! I can have him on the barstool, singing songs, while Jethall randomly tosses chicken legs at him in mock annoyance, which he gobbles up between songs."
 

Agema

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Yep. Like I said, my general rule is that if the PCs intend to encounter an NPC more than twice ever I give it a full writeup, but mine tend to have a bad habit of looking for weirdly specific things that I'd need a binder the size of the Encyclopedia Brittanica to have enough prepared NPCs (even rough templates) to cover the spectrum. I've gotten good at just creating them off the cuff, and noting what they were in case the players ever come back to them.
Agreed. I have about three categories of NPC: trivial, session-relevant and campaign-relevant. Trivial I don't even bother with stats - if the players do decide to randomly murder them and rob their stuff, I'll sort that out on the spot. Story-relevant have equipment, stats, etc. Campaign relevant have lots of details. I have decided to upgrade some story-relevant to campaign relevant: they can be built up as required.

Improvisation is a really important GM skill, because you can absolutely guarantee the players will think of doing something you haven't, and you'll be ending up inventing people, places and so on one way or the other.

My groups just have a house rule that if the GM screwed up a rules call earlier and we're just now realizing it, then that was the rule for that one instance. Moving on. My players are generally very story oriented, so they're more interested in keeping the plot going than staying perfectly in sync with the mechanics. Which works for me.
The more I played, the less I liked systems. When I played in my 20s, I ended up playing some games where the PCs just chose their characters in entirety, except we pretty much did away with statistics, skills etc. with numerical values. You had a character with a backstory and just a quick verbal description of their aptitudes. Dice rolling was "representative": roll 2d6 / d20 / 2d10 or whatever you like for everything, the GM factors in the character and circumstance, announce a fair result. Still needs some underlying numbers (like how many times do they need to hit that Giant Land Squid before it goes down?), but...

You really need a lot of trust between GM and players though. Also, some people really love the "mathematical" element of knowing there's a target number they need to hit with all sorts of of plusses and minuses, and the ensuing excitement of the roll, so this might not suit them at all.
 

happyninja42

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Improvisation is a really important GM skill, because you can absolutely guarantee the players will think of doing something you haven't, and you'll be ending up inventing people, places and so on one way or the other.
Yeah but like I said in my above post, not everyone is actually good at that. I've played with the same guys for 20+ years, and the simple fact is they do not handle improv situations well. They are just not mentally wired to wing it, and run it smooth. Try as they might, it's not a skill they posses. Which is why preparing a folder of modular npcs and locations, I think, is an incredibly good tool. I mean it's helpful to anyone, good improvising GMs or not, but it's an incredibly useful tool for the type of person who just can't really handle being told to go "off-module".

I mean FFG even has a set of stat cards that basically do this for you in their Star Wars setting. It's a collection of random factions and groups that you could easily run into in an SW campaign, with some basic stats. They are labeled things like "Coruscant Street Thugs" with some basic combat stats. They are a ranged group, so you can toss them in as fodder if needed in a random fight. It's also got things like "Mid-Rank Imperial Customs Officer" or some other random Imperial ranking name. Basically just an Imperial functionary. But it's got the basic stats you might need in an actual scene, right there for you. And it's incredibly handy, because you can just quickly thumb through the deck, find one that fits the general need, and just reskin them as whatever is fitting. I mean their "Stormtrooper Squad" got reskinned by me like 5 times, to everything from Tribal Archers to Gungan Raiders. It's just a great time saver to have that stuff already done, and easily at hand, especially if your weakness as a GM, is improv.
 

Agema

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Yeah but like I said in my above post, not everyone is actually good at that. I've played with the same guys for 20+ years, and the simple fact is they do not handle improv situations well.
Fair enough - but I would say that improvisation is what you do without preparation for a specific task, rather than being without any preparation at all. For instance, you don't know exactly what you'll be asked in a lot of job interviews, but you can still prepare for them by making sure you have ideas for the main sorts of questions that might emerge. In this sense, having pre-packaged, generic templates that can be applied to an unexpected situation is a good idea.
 

happyninja42

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Fair enough - but I would say that improvisation is what you do without preparation for a specific task, rather than being without any preparation at all. For instance, you don't know exactly what you'll be asked in a lot of job interviews, but you can still prepare for them by making sure you have ideas for the main sorts of questions that might emerge. In this sense, having pre-packaged, generic templates that can be applied to an unexpected situation is a good idea.
This is true, but the ways that players can run off on tangents in a gaming session, covers a much wider range of insane things, compared to "job interview." For example, I knew a guy who told us a story of him running a session of Ravenloft with some friends, and he told us how he described some wolves howling in the distance. This was meant only as atmospheric flavoring, but the players decided that the wolves were IMPORTANT, otherwise why did the GM mention them? So they spent the entire session, running around trying to find what is essentially the background music. Now, multiply that by like 1000 other ways a situation could change in a gaming setting, and it seems very prudent, to me anyway, to not rely on being able to just wing it. Instead plan as best as you can within reason, for those curveballs, so it's less of a derailment to the game, where people are sitting around and waiting for the GM to cook something up.

Again, I'm not saying have an encyclopedia of things, all with detailed, full writeups. That's not what this is supposed to be. It's supposed to be a quick reference for things you need on the fly, just without having to actually do the mental gymnastics of the "on the fly" part. IF those NPC's become more based on the events, then sure, take some time to give them a full bio work. But if not, well that's ok, you've still used them as needed, and the stats are still there, and you can reskin that Orc Female Bartender to be a Dwarven Male Bartender in a later session, but you've at least got the basic "things a bartender would be good at" skills handy, in case they are needed.
 

Gordon_4

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For players, “Never trust a smiling dungeon master”

For new DM’s, be aware that players operate on what is now know as “Tucker’s Law”
 

Kae

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For players, “Never trust a smiling dungeon master”

For new DM’s, be aware that players operate on what is now know as “Tucker’s Law”
In that same vein, if the GM heavily implies you should do something it means he's either tired of how slow you're being or they are trying to trick you into doing something stupid.